Post Examines Unkept Promises in Afghanistan

The Washington Post’s Griff Witte has turned in some strong reporting from the Af-Pak region over the past week, including a story today on the Afghan government’s apparent inability to deliver on promises made to insurgents who are persuaded to give up their arms. The article focuses on the experience of a fighter named Feda Mohammed:

Mohammed, thin and balding at 36, first picked up a Kalashnikov in the late 1980s when Soviet troops still occupied Afghanistan, and like many of his countrymen he has hardly stopped fighting since. For the past eight years, his enemy has been the Americans.

But this summer he was feeling exhausted by war, and he wanted to return to his native Afghanistan after years of living among insurgents-in-exile in Pakistan. One night in August, he tricked his commanders into believing he was traveling to Afghanistan to attack a U.S. base, and ended up defecting along with five of his brothers and their father. He thought the decision would give his family a fresh start.

“Now my children ask me why we can’t go back to the way it was when I was fighting,” he said, saying his family lived better while on the Taliban payroll. “I don’t have an answer.”

The men who recruited Mohammed to the government’s side said they feel sorry for him, and for the dozens of other insurgents they have persuaded to stop fighting this year through promises they knew to be false.

The story also describes a plan by the military officials to address this problem, which is apparently inspired by but not modeled on the Awakenings in Iraq. As the war effort proceeds, this will be a key angle to watch, and Witte’s story captures the situation at an important moment.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.