Thursday, June 17, 2010

Challenges of Reintegration

Matt Waldman has an in-depth study on the challenges facing reintegration. Noting that reintegration is one step in reducing violence but that it only "addresses the symptoms of the disease, not the disease itself."

While economic pressure is a factor – the infamous $10 Taliban - there are often more immediate and fundamental reasons that drive people to fight. These include resistance to foreign occupation, civilian casualties, government impunity, tribal conflict and exclusion. These fundamental issues or ‘root cause’ highlight the need for substantial political reconciliation.

At its core, reintegration must offer something of value to all Afghans.

“Some believe its principal, legitimate role is to reduce violence, enhance community cohesion, and support a credible process of reconciliation. For General McChrystal, however, it is ‘a normal component of counterinsurgency warfare’ in other words, its central utility is as an instrument to weaken and potentially divide the enemy. Indeed, the US Military’s joint doctrine on Counterinsurgency Operations states that ‘offering amnesty or a seemingly generous compromise can also cause divisions within an insurgency and present opportunities to split or weaken it.”


Reintegration is more complex and difficult to accomplish than is commonly appreciated. There are significant obstacles, including lack of trust, insurgent cohesion, and revenge attacks on participants. There is also a dissonance between the economic incentives offered by reintegration and some of the powerful social, political, ideological, and personal factors that cause people to fight.

A well-executed reintegration scheme could have positive social, economic, and stabilisation benefits – and thus reduce the force of the insurgency – but if mishandled, it could do the reverse. Without intelligent design, effective delivery, and political resolve it has the potential to exacerbate local security conditions, undermine high-level talks, and even increase insurgent recruitment. It could also distract policy-makers from action to tackle the root causes of the conflict. Reintegration addresses the symptoms of the disease, and not the disease itself.

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