May 17, 2004

The success of the process of DDR (Disarmement, Demoblization, and Reintegration) is seen by the United Nations and the wider circle of Afghan analysts as well as by ordinary people of Afghanistan as key to a smooth transition to democracy and rule of law. It was initially hoped that all the militias belonging to regional warlords and different political parties hand over their weapons to the central government, disband, and be integrated into civilian life by undergoing vocational training or other programs. Already late on the deadline -like many other things on the central government’s list of things to do, including the ratification of the electoral law and voters registration- the DDR seems now to be the victim of another affliction characteristic of Afghan politics: lately there has been news that some militias loyal to the defense minister will get to keep their precious toys and fall under the umbrella of a security apparatus that will help the NATO/ISAF’s security assistance mission.
It sounds great, but it takes just a glance at this history of those same troops and the atrocities that they -like most other militia groups in Afghanistan- have committed to anticipate the troubles ahead. For one, this move will be received by many around the country as an exceptionalist gesture, and thereby undermine the process of disarmament as rival militia point fingers at the defense ministry’s militias who got to keep their weapons. Significantly, this is not a totally irrelevant concern in Afghanistan where ethnic hegemony and brutal suppression of members of one ethnic group by another has been so prevalent historically that it justifies caution.
That leaves the central government and the international community with a major task on their hands: to succeed in Afghanistan, it is important to enforce an across-the-board disarmament that gives exception to no one. This is important for the credibility of the process, and for the longevity of future peace and stability; and it ensures that militias of one ethnic group will not have the power -many might still have the will- to brutalize and suppress others.