View Full Version : Afghan army to accept former Islamic militants

03-06-2010, 02:23 AM
The men are being signed up under the label of "former Mujahideen fighters" but there are suspicions it is a way of allowing former Taliban into the military as part of the reconciliation process.

Moves will begin this month to start reintegrating the first of 3,000 men from the southern Pashtun area which is the key recruiting ground for the Taliban in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

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Each man has to undergo a biometric test before being admitted involving eye scans and finger prints that could connect them to insurgent bombs or weapons. They will also have to produce a letter of endorsement from their village elder vouching that the person is fit to serve the Afghan army.

American defence chiefs hope the project – known as the Mujahideen Integration Course – will turn large numbers away from the insurgency.

At the London Conference in January a fund of about £330 million was set aside to "reintegrate" Taliban commanders.

While commanders deny it is a Taliban reconciliation project, the former Mujahideen are likely to be paid the equivalent of a captain's wage of around £270 a month, more than double the national wage and significantly more than a private soldier's salary of £110 a month.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Gen William Caldwell, who heads the Nato Training Mission in Afghanistan, said: "We are going to bring the former Mujahideen in and put them into officer training programmes into the army as junior or midlevel officers.

"This is truly to bring in southern Pashtuns who have not had the opportunity yet to join the army." He added that "as long as nothing comes up on biometrics" they would be admitted.

Asked if this was a way of bringing in Taliban fighters through the back door Gen Caldwell said: "Clearly there will be people who fought in Mujahideen and Taliban. We did not build this programme or come with the concept in order to bring in anything other than former Mujahideen."

The programme is being carried out with the approval of the Afghan defence minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, who wants to see more Pashtun officers to balance out those from the Tajik ethnic group.