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Former Taliban Reconcile With Afghan Government

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Former Taliban Reconcile With Afghan Government


Former Taliban Reconcile With Afghan Government

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Here's a hallmark of a war commanded by General David Petraeus: the U.S. military moves against the enemy with guns but also tries persuasion. Petraeus did this in Iraq and is now trying it in Afghanistan, as he explained to Congress earlier this month.

General DAVID PETRAEUS (Commander, U.S. and NATO forces, Afghanistan): Indeed, we recognize that we and our Afghan partners cannot just kill or capture our way out of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Afghan-led reintegration of reconcilable insurgents must also be an important element of the strategy - and it now is.

INSKEEP: The general says about 700 former Taliban fighters have already laid down their arms. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports on two former insurgents in Kandahar, the Afghan city known as the birthplace of the Taliban.

COREY FLINTOFF: Haji Toor Jan is a lean, weathered man who looks older than his 26 years. He wears the loosely wrapped turban and long beard that's characteristic of Pashtun men in the farm districts around Kandahar.

Mr. HAJI TOOR JAN (Former Taliban fighter): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says his job was coordinating homemade bomb attacks and setting up ambushes to kill Afghan and foreign soldiers. He joined the Taliban when he was about 16, survived many fights, and rose in the ranks.

Toor Jan quit the Taliban and joined the Afghan government's reintegration program about a month ago, along with 30 of his men.

Mr. TOOR JAN: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says he first began fighting for religious reasons, because Taliban Imams told him that he was taking part in jihad, or holy war. Toor Jan says he became disillusioned when his superiors ordered him to attack Afghan civilians who were fellow Muslims.

Mr. MALAWI AZIZULLAH (Former Taliban fighter): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Malawi Azizullah says he joined the Taliban in the name of Pashtunwali, the Pashtun code of honor that says humiliations must be avenged. He says he had to fight back when he felt that coalition forces dishonored people by searching houses in Panjwayi, where he ran a big madrassa, or religious school. As he puts it, they broke into our houses and pulled off the scarves of the women.

Azizullah is also in his 20s, wearing traditional black eyeliner that makes a striking contrast with his long black beard.

Mr. AZIZULLAH: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says he became disillusioned when he learned that elements of Pakistan's security agency, the ISI, were supporting the Taliban with the goal of keeping Afghanistan weak and unstable.

Though Azizullah and Toor Jan have pledged not to fight any more, neither man is interested in reconciling with Americans.

Mr. AZIZULLAH: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Azizullah says he still hopes all foreigners will leave the country and stay away. Azizullah joined the reintegration program just over a week ago, bringing ten men with him. He was welcomed back into the community in a ceremony in which the provincial governor wrapped his head with a new white turban.

Local elders said they were a bit disappointed that Azizullah brought only ten men with him, since he's considered a significant commander who controls at least 200 fighters. But Azizullah says he expects another ten men will join him next week when they see that the government can be trusted, and the rest will follow after that.

Both Azizullah and Toor Jan say they've been promised protection from their former comrades in the Taliban, as well as jobs and shelter for their men. But they also say that money and jobs aren't what motivated them.

Mr. TOORYALAI WESA (Governor, Kandahar Province): Absolutely not. We are not reconciling with people if they are expecting blank checks by the end of the month, or by the end of the week, that's not reconciliation.

FLINTOFF: That's the provincial governor, Tooryalai Wesa. He says the government will keep its promises to Taliban who reintegrate, but that the program is not aimed at buying loyalty.

Haji Toor Jan says it's also a matter of restoring a place that's been destroyed by decades of fighting. He's from the Arghandab Valley, one of areas that was the scene of some of the hardest fighting during last year's campaign.

Mr. TOOR JAN: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Years ago, he says, the Arghandab was so beautiful that Muslim travelers likened it to paradise on earth. Now, many of its orchards and vineyards have been destroyed. He says he'd like to be involved in replanting them.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News.

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