April 12, 2006:
The major peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan is the DIAG (Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups) program. It is believed that there are still some 2,000 armed groups in the country, most of the them tribe/clan/family militias. So far, some 60,000 men have been disarmed, with 11,000 heavy weapons (anti-aircraft guns, tanks, mortars) surrendered, along with 35,000 lighter weapons. Men are allowed to keep their rifles, which are considered a necessity in the countryside. By the end of the year, 1,800 groups, containing 125,000 armed men, are to be disarmed. Some of these fellows may be very reluctant to give up their guns. It seems that drug gangs are making attractive offers to men with guns. Signs of the thriving drug business are everywhere, especially in the form of new SUVs, and newly built (and usually heavily fortified) compounds. DIAG has been offering cash payments, job retraining, and the threat of retaliation (if they don't disarm). This has worked pretty well so far, but the drug money definitely changes the atmosphere.