KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan will ask for more control of billions of dollars pledged to reconstruct the war-torn country at a major international conference on Tuesday.
Critics accuse the government of squandering millions in foreign aid, but President Hamid Karzai says most waste occurs on development projects outside official control, and he wants direct access to more of the $13 billion pot.
Part of that would be used in Kabul’s efforts at wooing insurgents and reintegrating them into society. Here are some facts and figures about the process:
* With violence in Afghanistan at its worst in the 9-year war and some 150,000 foreign troops locked in a bloody stalemate with the militants, the Afghan government and military commanders are increasingly looking toward a political solution to end the fighting. Some 1,600 Afghan elders and religious leaders endorsed a plan by President Hamid Karzai at a peace gathering last month to try and bring fighters in from the cold.
* The reintegration process is to officially start after the Kabul conference where Afghanistan will seek official international endorsement for the program.
* The process itself will consist of three stages, the government says, whereby the government will initially try to gain insurgent trust by reaching out to disaffected fighters through tribal and religious leaders.
This will be followed by a process where insurgents are vetted, disarmed and provided with security.
Finally, the government plans to provide jobs for those who defect as well offering community-based social and development programs.
Key to the whole process, the government says, is to gain the insurgents’ confidence by providing them security and allowing them to rejoin their communities with dignity.
* International support for the reintegration process, has gained traction in recent months, at least in public. In private, Western officials appear divided with some saying more victories are needed on the battlefield first. Those that do support it say the process needs to be based on specific “red lines,” whereby any insurgent coming over to the government side would have to renounce all violence as well as any links to al Qaeda and would have to accept the Afghan constitution.
* Even within the Afghan government there have been disagreements about the process. Last month, the former head of the country’s intelligence department resigned from his post, he said because he did not support Karzai’s drive to make peace with the insurgents. Some parliamentarians have also expressed concern over the plan.
* The reintegration process has also had its fair share of criticism from analysts and rights groups. Many of them point to the failure of past reintegration efforts over the years and say this one will be no different. Many argue the process is doomed to fail because it relies primarily on the premise that most insurgents are simply fighting for the money and ignores the fact that many of them have legitimate grievances with the government. Unless political conditions are changed first, they argue, there will not be many takers.
Human rights groups have also spoken out against the plan saying it amounts to a “quick fix” that will jeopardize the rights of ordinary Afghans, particularly women.
Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by David Fox