Half of Afghan militias disarmed: UN program

Kabul, December 5, 2004 - Almost a half of former Afghan paramilitary combatants have been disarmed under the ongoing UN- backed Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program, a UN spokesman said.

"Afghanistan New Beginning Program (ANBP) informed us that so far 26,569 members of the Afghan militia forces have been disarmed, " Manoel de Almeida e Silva told newsmen at a regular press briefing.

Surveys conducted by several agencies and organizations indicate that about 60,000 armed militiamen loyal to different commanders have kept roaming in the post-war nation, mainly in the countryside while Afghan officials put the number as high as 100, 000.

The transitional government has been trying very hard to disband the remaining half of the existing militias ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held next April. Under the DDR launched in October 2003, the Afghan administration planned to demobilize all the militias across the country and replace it with a 70,000-strong brand-new regular army, the goal is tentatively expected to be realized by 2007.