Twenty-four Afghan militia leaders have turned in their weapons to a disarmament program led by the government of Afghanistan. Officials of the program, called the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups, say that twenty-one militia commanders in the western province of Badghis recently surrendered eighty-seven heavy and light weapons. In Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, three commanders turned in eighty-five heavy and light weapons and some forty-five thousand rounds of ammunition.
The disarmament program is supported by the United Nations. Since June, the program has collected more than twenty-thousand weapons and more than one-hundred-forty-eight thousand rounds of ammunition from militia groups across Afghanistan.
Disarming the militias is an important part of Afghanistan's transition to peace and the rule of law after decades of violent conflict. Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, some sixty-thousand Afghans have laid down their arms and declared allegiance to the Afghan government. Under another U-N-backed program, former militiamen are finding a rewarding place in civilian life.
"I was using my gun to earn money and people hated me. Now I can afford to take care of my family," says Said Kamal. Mr. Kamal turned in his assault rifle in 2005 to participate in the U-N's Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program. Now he works as carpenter in the northern city of Sheberghan.
Mohammad Yassen, another participant in the disarmament program, runs a Sherberghan auto repair shop. "I basically worked as a servant for the [militia] commander," says Mr. Yassen. "Now I am enjoying a free life and earning money and serving people," he says.
President George W. Bush says the Afghan people recognize "that democracy stands in stark contrast to the life these people had to live under the Taleban." Mr. Bush says that the task now is to help the country thrive and grow:
"And help the Afghan citizens realize the dreams of men and women that they can live in a free and peaceful world. Remember these folks have voted for a president and voted for a parliament. I'm proud of the progress we're making there."
Mr. Bush says the U.S. wants to see Afghanistan flourish "and set a great example not only to the neighborhood but around the world."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.