FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - Afghan leaders from southern Kandahar province and International Security Assistance Force leaders gathered to learn about the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Program May 2 in Takhteh Pol district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
The meeting brought together local leaders and administrators of the reintegration program to discuss why it is being implemented and how it may benefit the province.
"Our goal is to focus on peace and how to ensure no more terrorist attacks on our villages," said Mohahammed Satai, the head of the Joint Secretariat of Kandahar Peace Council. "It's time for change in the new Afghanistan."
"It's encouraging to see the Afghans doing this, because what it means is that the Afghans are serious about this," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas M. Feltey, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment who hails from Kearny, N.J. "Peace is going to be solved at the village and the district level and the Afghans understand that. They're not waiting for peace to come from Kabul."
Feltey's unit makes up a Task Force that advises and mentors Afghan National Security Forces and government leaders in the Spin Boldak and surrounding districts in order to increase their capability. The reintegration program confirms to Feltey that the efforts here have not gone to waste.
"It's significant," said Feltey. "It's a sign of success, an indicator of success for our campaign plan."
The reintegration program itself is a testament of the GIRoA successes in the area because it is offering insurgents the opportunity to join a successful, growing society.
"What the Afghans want to do is, they want to give [the insurgents] a way out," said Feltey. "Now with this reintegration, it allows them an honorable way to reintegrate back into society."
"It's time to get together and build this nation," said Satai. "If you are Taliban or any type of terrorist, let's come together in peace and start to build this nation."
Bringing the insurgents back into society means a more stable government. Increases in security have made Afghans more confident about their government and the reintegration program is proof of that.
"To me it shows that they are comfortable with the security situation to offer that olive branch to the insurgents," said Feltey. "They are part of society. They are not going away anytime soon so they have to have a peaceable process to bring them back into the legitimate Afghan government."
"So just by that, that means that there is a legitimate government," said Feltey.
During the shura, Satai passed out information to the village elders and leaders in attendance to highlight the government's progress and commitment to the program. A question and answer session followed by a meal ended the shura and the attendees left armed with information on how to institute the program in their villages and districts.