18 Former Rebel Commanders Sign Afghanistan Loyalty Pledges
By Master Sgt. Geoffrey Carter, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
GARDEZ, Afghanistan, July 4, 2005 Eighteen of Gulbiddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami militia commanders turned themselves over to Paktia province's Gov. Hakim Taniwal last month.
The commanders came in under the terms of the Afghan government's reconciliation program called "Tahkim-e Solh," or "Strengthening Peace." They recently participated in an official ceremony to finalize their return home after years in Pakistan.
After meeting with Taniwal and coalition representatives from the Gardez provincial reconstruction team, they had the program explained to them by Afghan government representatives and then all 18 signed statements pledging loyalty to the elected government.
Part of that loyalty statement included an agreement not to possess heavy weapons or take up arms against the Afghan government or coalition forces.
After getting photographed and filling out personal information forms for their new reconciliation identification cards, the former rebel commanders were greeted and physically embraced by Taniwal to welcome them back into Afghan society.
"Today we made another important step towards bringing complete peace to our province," Taniwal said through an interpreter.. "By working together and talking about our differences, we have found the means to bring some of our fellow Afghans home to Paktia to again become important members of the community, helping to build our quality of life and the peace we all seek.
"We are also enjoying the results of our enduring effort to bring allegiance and reconciliation to Afghanistan's new government," he continued, "fostering the trust and ownership in a new, democratic way to govern and care for our people. These gentlemen have returned home because of the trust and opportunity they see and heard about from their friends and families here in Paktia."
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Stephen Tableman, commander of the Gardez PRT, echoed the governor's sentiments. "Paktia province again demonstrates how a community comes together to restore its government and quality of life by overcoming the memories and results of war and conflict," he said. "These 18 former ... commanders came here today, returning their families from Pakistan to a new life in their homeland, because they believe in and trust what Governor Taniwal and his government are developing in Paktia."
(Army Master Sgt. Geoffrey Carter is assigned to Task Force Devil public affairs.)