By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
June 3, 2010 - As some 1,500 Afghan leaders participate in President Hamid Karzai's peace council to discuss how to reconcile with insurgents, the commander of NATO's Regional Command East said today he has seen increasing evidence that former fighters want to put down their arms and rejoin Afghan society.
Army Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also commands Combined Joint Task Force 82, said virtually all 14 provinces within his area of responsibility are experiencing a common phenomenon.
Increasing numbers of Taliban fighters "have made contact and want to come back to their community," he said. "And we've had examples of where small-unit commanders have brought eight or 10 fighters back in."
The process typically occurs through district governors and sub-governors and the tribes, and requires the fighters to "guarantee that they won't return to the fight and that they are pledging their allegiance to the [Afghan] government," Scaparrotti said.
Finding a way to reintegrate former fighters is a key focus of Karzai's peace council, or jirga, under way in Kabul. The session opened yesterday, with nearby rocket fire failing to disrupt the proceedings which continue today.
"This is an Afghan-led solution, and reintegration, reconciliation is Afghan-led," Scaparrotti said. "It's a government initiative."
As he prepares to transfer authority of RC-East and CJTF-82 June 14 to Army Gen. John Campbell, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Scaparrotti expressed confidence he's leaving the region in a better position than when he and his 82nd Airborne Division troops arrived a year ago.
"We realize that Afghanistan and Regional Command East are at a critical moment," he said. In addition to receiving about 4,000 more U.S. troops as part of the surge, the region also is experiencing an influx of civilians from the State and Agriculture departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
As his troops advance a combined-action initiative, embedding with their Afghan national security force counterparts, Scaparrotti said they're working hand-in-hand with their civilian counterparts.
"We all recognize that the solution to Afghanistan's challenges is not only a military solution but a combination of security, governance and development, which requires both military and civilian professionals to have an effect," he said.
Meanwhile, Scaparrotti praised the impact the combined action initiative is having on building competence and capacity within the Afghan army, police and border police.
The relationship begins at the senior levels, with deputy commanders and their staffs living side- by-side with the Afghan National Army's 201st and 203rd Corps headquarters, and continues throughout the rank structure.
"This nesting ensures that we are truly working together in a synchronized manner to achieve a common goal," he said.
During their last weeks before redeploying to Fort Bragg, N.C., Scaparrotti said he and his CJTF-82 troops aren't anticipating any slowdown in the pace of operations.
"Insurgents continue to intentionally wage a war of fear and propaganda against the Afghan people," he said. "And in contrast, the Afghan national security forces continue to demonstrate increasing capability to protect the Afghan people."