HELMAND – Afghan tribal elders and the government are working together to convince militants to lay down their arms.
In a meeting earlier this month with Helmand Provincial Governor Gulab Mangal, tribal elders from Garemser District demanded the government’s help in convincing local militants to join the peace process.
“Now the tribal elders understand that they have to persuade anti-government fighters to lay down arms and drive foreign militants out of their areas, as well as help the local administration in bringing peace to their areas,” Daoud Ahmadi, spokesman for provincial governor, told Central Asia Online. “The few remaining militant groups also want to give up violence and surrender … through the local tribal elders’ mediation.”
Ahmadi said the tribal elders want the government to speed up the peace process, pave roads, build public infrastructure and help ensure security.
“The government is committed to meeting these needs … to encourage local people to join the peace process,” he added. The Garemser militants reportedly asked the elders to ensure that the government gives them immunity. Earlier, Afghan authorities had promised to protect those who join the peace process.
“Taliban fighters have wearied of fighting and now want to give up violence and live beside other people in a peaceful atmosphere,” Sayed Muhammad, a tribal elder from Helmand, said. More than 1,500 militants have switched sides in northern Afghanistan in the past couple of months, according to the National Directorate of Security.
Tribal elder explains shift
“We are ready to co-operate with our own government to speed up reconciliation,” Muhammad said.
Mistrust of local administrations was one reason militants chose to wage war earlier, but having seen good governance now in rural areas, they want to give up violence and co-operate with the the government, Ahmadi said.
The High Peace Council, which seeks peace talks with the militants, has asked tribal elders to help peace talks move forward. “In many cases, the tribal elders had a considerable positive role,” Ahmadi said.
“For instance, in Musa Qala (a district of Helmand), there is no violence now, people live peacefully, reconstruction is in progress and this is what the local tribal elders and government promised each other,” Ahmadi said.
Last year, after Afghan-led forces drove the Taliban out of Marjah District in Helmand, and dozens of civilians took up arms and fought the militants “because the government had helped them in every aspect.”
“(This behaviour) proves that people don’t support the anti-government armed militants,” Ahmadi said.