Academic journal article Military Review

The Road to Reconciliation: Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration

Academic journal article Military Review

The Road to Reconciliation: Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration

Article excerpt


IRAQ HAS A COMPLEX BACKGROUND of ethnicities, religions, and tribes. In many cases, the differences between these groups have resulted in conflict, ranging from a reluctance to work together to open hostility and fighting. The process of reconciliation seeks to bridge these differences to ensure that groups can function alongside each other and underneath a legitimate, sovereign government.

After major conflicts, reconciliation can also refer to the process of reincorporating fighting elements into a peace process. A thorough analysis of the "human terrain" is necessary to understand group interactions that facilitate successful reconciliation. Operations on this human terrain have become as critical as the tactical operations that characterized the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, if not more so.

In northern Iraq, Sunni Arabs are the key target population group for reconciliation programs. They make up most of the local population, but were not represented in the government following a boycott of the 2005 elections by many Sunnis across the country. Sunni Arabs also make up the majority of the insurgent population, fighting for groups based in Islamic extremism or nationalism. For the new Iraqi government to succeed, all ethnic, sectarian, and cultural groups must be able to participate in and support the central government. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) open the possibility for reconciliation to these insurgent fighters.

Reconciliation and Reintegration Models

Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration refers to the process for collecting and disposing of weapons and ammunition, disbanding or transforming the opposing force, and assisting former combatants' transition back into civil society. United Nations guidelines state that "disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants should take place in the earliest stages of the peace process." (1) At the end of major combat operations in the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Republican Guard and much of the Iraqi military were disarmed and demobilized; however, reintegration proved to be more difficult. Rebuilding the Iraqi Security Forces continued at a slow rate, and many former military (and government) members were excluded from serving in the new government. This exclusion caused the new government to lose significant military expertise.

The UN concept for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration begins with a detailed disarmament plan, which includes measures for demonstrating transparency and accountability, a structured weapons management program that seeks to limit new weapons coming into the country, and security for former combatants. Demobilization is accomplished at secure cantonment sites that provide basic services while ex-combatants wait to be resettled. Reintegration programs assess the skills of ex-combatants, potential reconstruction plans, and funding available to create programs. Also required, and equally as challenging, are "significant changes in attitude on the part of the former combatants and the rest of the civilian population." (2)

The enemy in the counterinsurgency environment, however, does not have a conventional, uniformed force that we can systematically disarm and demobilize. "Irregular armed groups and armed individuals" are targets for disarmament, but the widespread availability of weapons and ammunition in hidden caches or brought in from outside Iraq causes "incomplete disarmament." (3) Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration is not a one-time discrete process, but a continuous pipeline with individuals at various stages on the path towards reintegration.

Amnesty, reconciliation, and reintegration, also referred to as "AR2," is an alternate approach to the reintegration process The key difference between the AR2 method and DDR is that "amnesty must be in place as a foundation before reconciliation or reintegration can take place. …

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