Militia Division Disarms in Kabul, Becomes 'Heroes of Peace'
By Col. Randy Pullen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2004 The 31st Division of the Afghan militia forces' Central Corps disarmed in a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration event held at the division's barracks in Mataw Qala, West Kabul, Aug. 23.
Crew-served heavy weapons -- mortars, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns and machine guns -- as well as individual weapons and ammunition were turned over to the Afghan New Beginnings Program's mobile disarmament unit. The 170 officers and soldiers of the 31st Division were then provided with temporary DDR identification cards and the paperwork needed to allow them to visit the ANBP region office to select their reintegration packages.
The commander of the soon-to-be demobilized division, Brig. Gen. Alhaj Shah Mohammad Zakery, said that the division was obeying the decree of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the command of the Afghan defense ministry to undertake the DDR process. He also said the coalition and the United Nations were working for the peace and security of Afghanistan, and that he agreed with their aims. "We are eager to help them," Zakery said. "DDR is good for Afghanistan."
Zakery said that 600 to 700 of his best soldiers had already left the division to join the Afghan National Army and that he, too, was waiting to see if his nomination for a command in the ANA would be approved.
Former and present soldiers of the 31st Division agreed with the division commander as to the necessity to disarm.
"We must turn in our weapons to the government," said former commander Abdul Rahman. "It is the time for peace." As he turned in his AK-47 and received his ANBP paperwork, Capt. Abdul Magid said, "I want our country to be a safe place. I am happy to do this."
Several officials praised the 31st Division's soldiers at the ceremony, both for their heroism on the battlefield against the enemies of the Afghan people and for their being "heroes of peace" in choosing to take part in the DDR process.
"You officers and soldiers here fought the Russians and al Qaeda and defeated them with your bravery," Maj. Gen. Orya Khail of the Central Zone disarmament program, said to the disarming soldiers. "Now you take another step in bringing peace and security by submitting your weapons and participating in the reconstruction of the country as heroes."
The 31st Division's political and theological director, Gen. Sayed Azghar Aalammi, also noted the division's fine record against the Russians, the Taliban and al Qaeda, and said that turning in weapons and starting the DDR process was one more fine achievement for the division. He also requested that the demobilizing officers and men of the division be given proper jobs and careers according to their talents and qualifications.
In response, Ahmad Jan Nawzadi of the Afghan New Beginnings Program explained to the disarming soldiers that those who have little education or are illiterate will receive professional education. Those who have adequate literacy will have the chance to take short courses of teaching, communication, agriculture and small business.
He noted the purpose of DDR was not to disarm Afghans, but to collect weapons from irresponsible persons and unnecessary places and place them under the control of the government. And by that control, he added, the weapons still belong to the people of Afghanistan.
Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman for the special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the total number of AMF soldiers disarmed in DDR's pilot and main phases is 13,381. The numbers of those demobilized and reintegrated are 13,022 and 11,549, respectively, he said.
(Army Col. Randy Pullen is the public affairs officer for the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan.)