KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Former Taliban members may one day reenter Afghan society as a result of a reintegration program discussed during a conference Dec. 6, in Kandahar City.

The reintegration program allows Taliban to come forward without fear of punishment and offers them a productive job in the community. In exchange, they must have their weapons registered and their fingerprints and retina scanned.

The program is targeted toward mid- to lower-level insurgents with the hope of persuading them to join the general public, said Baryalai Helai, advisor to the minister of reintegration.

The goal is to make peace with disenfranchised Afghans and drive out foreign fighters like al-Qaeda, said Helai.

Most of the Afghan insurgents are just people with financial problems, said Gavid Faisal, Kandahar Media Information Center press officer. They are angry at their situation and are trying to find some way to fix it.

"They have some legitimate grievances," Helai said. "Using force will not achieve anything but bloodshed, we must reach out and talk. There is still time to understand each other."

The conference in Kandahar City was the first big step in reaching out to these fighters, said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rip Miles, advisor to the Kandahar provincial governor.

Miles said the program has been in the organizational stages for a while, but this is the start of the operational stages.

The idea was to bring representatives from the High Peace Council down from Kabul to talk to the provincial leaders directly about what the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan needs from them for peaceful reconciliation, Miles said.

Although no Taliban were present at the meeting, the provincial governors and High Peace Council members were able to send a message through the local Afghan media.

They asked for their Muslim brothers to join them in peace talks and help end the 30 years of violence in the country.

"We are hopeful that they will come with a positive statement and that there will be peace," Helai said.

Page last updated Tue December 7th, 2010 at 09:30