News: Peace and reintegration future in Afghan’s hands
Story by 1st Lt. Cari Smith
TARIN KOWT, Afghanistan – Uruzgan provincial and district level leaders, along with members from Combined Team Uruzgan, Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team, and Special Operations Task Force Southeast, conducted a vital visit to support the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program, Nov. 24, 2012.
Leaders from Uruzgan province traveled to Khas Uruzgan district, a historical Taliban stronghold, to display their support for Afghan Local Police commander, Abdul Samad, a key re-integree in the APRP.
The APRP is a three-phase transitional program implemented by the Afghan Government to provide former insurgents a chance to stop fighting and become effective members of the Afghan community.
“The APRP helps to cement the decision to reintegrate,” said a special forces operator in Khas Uruzgan. “Samad is a success story for the reintegration effort in Khas Uruzgan.”
Samad, a former Taliban commander who turned re-integree and Afghan Local Police commander, Feb. 7, 2012, plays a very critical role in the success of the APRP. He completed the first two phases of reintegration, which include outreach and demobilization, and is now in the third and final phase of community recovery that brings small grant projects to the community thus building social acceptance.
“Samad has been an aggressive enemy to Taliban insurgents in the Sultan Mohammad Nawa [Valley],” the special forces operator said.
According to Lt. Col. John Dietrick, the Uruzgan and Daykundi Afghan Hand [a specially trained coalition member who builds relationships with Afghan partners], it was very important for the Uruzgan leadership to visit Samad and assure him of their ongoing support because previous unfulfilled commitments have caused tensions between Samad and the government creating doubt on the APRP with potential re-integrees.
“Samad is tired of hearing broken promises. It was good to get the current governor and new Provincial Joint Secretariat Team [PJST] up there to reassure Samad and his men of Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan [GIRoA] support. Now the key will be with the current governor and the APRP process to carry through those commitments and promises unfulfilled by previous GIRoA leadership,” Dietrick said.
Coalition forces helped the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan establish the APRP, and according to Col. Simon Stuart, commander of CTU, it is now up to the provincial governor, provincial peace council, and the PJST to keep the program going in Uruzgan.
“The real challenge is following up through the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Process. Samad is the most high-profile re-integree in the country; if something happened to him or if he went back to the insurgency because he didn’t get government support, it would be a significant victory for the insurgency,” Stuart said.
“If the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is able to keep Samad and fully integrate him, then it would be a huge success and reflect particularly well on Uruzgan and the government here,” Stuart said.
Uruzgan Provincial Governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada also made the trip from Tarin Kowt to Khas Uruzgan to affirm his commitment to Samad.
“I came here to see him, talk to him, and support him. I already approved six projects for this area. Those projects will include roads, canals and a dam for electricity [hydro electric power plant] and I plan to approve a school for this area so these children will have education,” Akhundzada said.
According to Abdul Samad, if the Afghan government continues supporting him and his men with projects, then other Taliban commanders will see the benefit of joining the peace process and will also reintegrate.
“I am very happy because I was destroying my country, and now I am supporting and building my country. I want the government to keep supporting me for the security of this region and to bring a lot of projects to this area and let the people of this area know that there is a government and they are supporting us,” Samad said.
Provincial Chief of Police Brig. Gen. Matiullah Khan is happy with Samad’s performance as an Afghan Local Police commander in Khas Uruzgan.
“I am very pleased with the ALP and the Afghan National Police. They are conducting clearances and patrolling in the area day and night for the people of this district for security,” Khan said.
Dietrick said that the roads previously were not secure and villagers’ ability to travel freely in the region was restricted.
“There was absolutely no way to drive safely from Samad’s village in Dehan-e-Sangu to Khas Uruzgan district center, however, due to Afghan National Security Forces patrols with coalition Special Operations forces assistance, now locals can drive back and forth,” Dietrick said.
Khan said the ANSF is also in the process of clearing the road from Tarin Kowt to Khas Uruzgan of improvised explosives devices to allow Afghan forces to provide better support and to increase the number of ALP personnel in the area. Khan supplied Samad and his men with boots, ammunition, uniforms, and blankets for winter. Most importantly, he provided salary pay for the ALP, a major step in showing support for Samad and his men who are also re-integrees.
International Security Assistance Forces officials present agreed the visit was a positive step for both the ALP and the reintegration process within Uruzgan.
“APRP officials have made a genuine effort to visit with the people of Khas Uruzgan,” the special forces operator said. “Though distance and logistical constraints often make it difficult to follow through on promises in a timely manner, the visit was a giant step in solidifying the relationship between the ALP and the district and provincial levels of government.”