Afghanistan has launched an initiative to convert Taliban foot soldiers with the promise of jobs and protection. Backed by the US military, the plan is modeled on its “Sons of Iraq” program; Stanley McChrystal even lured a key architect of that program out of retirement to help with it. The key, officials say, is to acknowledge and assuage fears that the West plans a prolonged occupation.
There’s already a program in place to accept surrendering militants, but it’s seen as a bit of a sham. “Lots of Taliban surrender,” says one Western diplomat. “And lots of them un-surrender.” Hamid Karzai has made this latest push a central part of his political platform, using his inauguration speech to encourage “all disenchanted brothers who are not directly linked to international terrorism to again embrace their homeland.”