‘Hundreds of Afghan fighters to lay down arms’


KABUL – As many as 900 Afghan fighters have agreed to lay down their arms, a senior NATO official said on Monday, but it is too soon to say if a drive to bring in low-level fighters can be decisive in curbing bloodshed. Major General Philip Jones, who leads NATO support of the Afghan government’s efforts to broker peace with militant factions, said reintegration efforts had begun three or four months ago.
“The pace of people coming into the programme has picked up … but the initial steps are the first in a very long process of trying to build peace,” Jones told reporters in Kabul. Central to any lasting improvement will be support from Pakistan in reining in militants along the Afghan border and better governance in Afghanistan, where corrupt officials have driven many villagers into the arms of the insurgency.
At the other end of the militant spectrum, Jones said at least 45 armed groups or possibly more were in talks with the government on lower-level or local reintegration.