Russia and Eurasia

Reintegrating the Taliban after the Death of Osama bin Laden

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Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda leader, was killed by US forces in Abbottabad, near Islamabad, Pakistan on 2ndMay 2011. Nearly 10 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks coordinated by al-Qaeda, this was “the most significant achievement to date” in the war against terror as pointed out by the US President Barack Obama.[1] There has been worldwide jubilation, particularly in the US and Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon expressed his delight as follows: ‘Personally, I am very much relieved by the news that justice has been done to such a mastermind of international terrorism. I would like to commend the work and the determined and principled commitment of many people in the world who have been struggling to eradicate international terrorism.’[2] Since his death there has also been worldwide media frenzy and speculation about the way the operation was undertaken, how he was killed and whether or not his body was disposed in the ocean. There are also a series of questions about the possible implications of his death on a number of global security issues such as possible immediate revenge attacks by al-Qaeda against Western targets around the world; the future of al-Qaeda and whether or not it would continue to pose a security threat to the West; the withdrawal date of Western forces from Afghanistan; and the links and future of cooperation between the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is in such a context that the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP) Review Conference took place in Kabul on 10-11th 2011.

TalibanThe significance of this conference is that in post-Osama bin Laden Afghanistan; the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of the Taliban that the APRP aims to achieve will now have a stronger message for what it represents for the future of peace in the country. The APRP was initiated by the consultative Peace Jirga in July 2010, and its main objective is to create reintegration opportunities for those Taliban members if and when they decide to stop fighting and return home. However, as pointed out in my Afghanistan article in one of the previous issues of Political Reflection, the APRP is based on a number of major assumptions such as the willingness of the Taliban to stop fighting in return of an amnesty and financial reintegration benefits. The argument used by the international community to explain why it is possible to attract some elements of the Taliban in such a reintegration process is to some extent, quite sound. It is argued that within the Taliban there are a number of sub-groups such as those ‘ideological’, ‘opportunistic’, ‘criminal’, ‘poor’ and ‘vulnerable’ Taliban. For the APRP, the approach to the ideological group which is formed by the Taliban high command and those combatants fighting for jihad and other identity related issues, will be centred on political negotiations and grievance resolution, while the APRP considers the livelihoods generation type programmes as its main approach for the other Taliban sub-groups. It is expected that even political negotiations may take a while to settle and complete, in the short-to-medium term there would be a real chance to convince other Taliban groups to give up their weapons for financial incentives. The APRP also argues that most of the Taliban members are actually home based and their participation into fighting is almost like seasonal employment. Therefore, the tangible peace dividends would likely to be a significant enticement for them. In fact, regardless of whether they are home-based or not or they would need a political approach rather than a more humanitarian and development based assistance, the death of Osama bin Laden may still have a significant impact on all of these possibilities, as it is expected that the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban is likely to change and possibly weaken in coming days.

The impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on the Taliban and Afghanistan will be seen over the next few months, but what is already evident is what the APRP has so far achieved since its inception almost a year ago. The Joint Secretariat for APRP lists them as follows: the establishment of Provincial Peace Committees in 28 provinces; a comprehensive outreach campaign to involve various groups from Ulemas, influential persons, women and youth groups to community leaders; a stronger level of coordination among security ministries (i.e. Defence, Interior) and line ministries (i.e. Agriculture, Public Works, Rural Rehabilitation, Labour, etc.); and finally wider community mobilisation through an improved level of trust between people and government.

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*Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 2 | No. 2

** Alpaslan Özerdem is Professor of Peacebuilding at Coventry University.

© Copyright 2011 by CESRAN



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