Afghan Gov't. Seeks to Reintegrate Taliban

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The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been preparing a program to lure the Taliban off the battlefield and into peaceful coexistence.

The government's 36-page document, entitled "The Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Program," will be released later this month following a peace conference in Kabul, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The United States, Japan and Great Britain are among the countries contributing to the $160 million trust fund underwriting the effort.

The reintegration program, which includes vocational training and promises of employment, involves "more than just a few mullahs changing sides," Karzai's top adviser, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, said during a recent visit to Washington.

Stanekzai said Taliban members from several of Afghan's provinces have already expressed interest in the program, which requires that insurgents renounce violence, sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terror groups, and abide by the nation's constitution.

The Afghan government recently forwarded a nine-page letter to its 34 provincial governors instructing them how to deal with interested Taliban fighters who have expressed a desire to leave the insurgency.

President Karzai is discussing the plan with Obama administration officials during his four-day visit to Washington this week.

"What President Karzai is saying - and we agree with this direction - is that you've got to look to see who is reconcilable," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a television interview over the weekend.

"Not everybody will be. We don't expect [Taliban chief] Mullah Omar to show up and say, 'Oh yea, I'm giving up on my association with al-Qaeda.' But we do think there are leaders within the Taliban - in fact there are some already - who have come over to the other side," Clinton said.

Taliban leaders have repeatedly said they want sharia [Islamic religious] law to play a much more prominent role in Afghanistan.

"While there have been reports that Mullah Omar is not seeking a governmental position, it is clear the [Taliban] movement as a whole…seeks a restructuring of the existing government to provide for a greater role for sharia law and positions for themselves in the government," a source at STRATFOR, a security think tank in Austin, Texas, told The Associated Press.


AP contributed to this report.

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