Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Young Afghan Militants Need Viable Alternatives to War

Kabul should do more to offer current and future insurgents a future.
By IWPR Afghanistan

The Afghan government needs to provide real financial incentives to encourage young men to leave the ranks of militant groups like the Taleban, according to speakers at IWPR debates in September.

Amanuddin Quraishi, governor of the Imam Saheb district in Kunduz province, said the government needed to make it worthwhile for fighters to join the peace process. Currently, he said, those who agreed to lay down their arms received only a paltry sum compared with the benefits they received for fighting.

“The government pays them between 6,000 and 12,000 afghani [90-180 US dollars a month], whereas the Taleban have doubled the amount they pay for armed operations against the government,” he said.

Quraishi was speaking before the situation in the northeastern province deteriorated further. Taleban fighters entering Kunduz city this week, captured key points, and engaged in heavy fighting with the Afghan army.

Other speakers in the Kunduz debate agreed that poverty and unemployment were significant drivers of conflict.

Allah Nazar Nazari, a member of the Imam Saheb community council, said local men had few opportunities to earn money.

“The state must provide people with jobs,” he said, noting that the Spinzar company, which in the past was a major global producer of cotton, used to have a factory in the district.

“Around 5,000 people worked there, but the government has made no effort to reopen it. If the factory is rebuilt, young people will not be forced into war,” Nazari said.

Religious scholar Maulavi Abdulmumin Amini said that the government must clean up its own act as well as provide jobs for young people.

“Unless they bring good governance, take action on administrative corruption and ensure justice, we will not have peace, even if we hold thousands of meetings on the subject,” he said.

In a discussion held in the western province of Herat, speakers said that different parts of Afghan society needed to cooperate to bring about stability.

Maulavi Mohammad Ismail Obaidi, a member of the Herat religious scholars’ council, said he and his colleagues had always tried to use their influence in the community to call for peace.

Herat provincial council member Sayed Azim Keberzani agreed that public buy-in was crucial.

“Unless the government works to raise awareness among ordinary people, it will be unable to prevent armed groups and foreign states from interfering in people’s lives,” he said.

Khalil Ahmad Parsa, the head of a local association of civil society institutions, said the government needed to take responsibility for ensuring the rule of law.

Local journalist Khalil Nurzai said that traditional justice processes could also contribute.

“The way to achieve peace is via building public awareness through tribal elders, dignitaries and religious scholars, as well as proper and effective use of the media,” he said.

In the northern province of Jowzjan, Abdul Karim, the local government head in Khwaja Dokoh district, said that poor and corrupt leadership left young people with few choices in life. They could either try to leave the country and find work abroad, or else join the insurgency.

“Peace can be ensured if the law applies to everybody,” he said.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.


As coronavirus sweeps the globe, IWPR’s network of local reporters, activists and analysts are examining the economic, social and political impact of this era-defining pandemic.