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In remote Afghan valley, a rare peace sprouts with insurgents

Promises of cash and jobs – rather than ideological pledges – help prompt fighters to lay down their arms. But questions remain about the program's efficacy.

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Deep in a mountain valley north of Kabul, Gulab Shah and his fellow insurgents were under siege. It was mid-March, and a French-led military offensive had been pounding their village night after night. A few of his comrades managed to escape into the surrounding mountains, but most were killed.

In the midst of these battles, a progovernment tribal leader met with Mr. Shah's men and made them an appealing offer: Stop fighting, and we will give you amnesty and a job. The men cautiously accepted.

They joined a program aimed at reconciling rank-and-file insurgents with the government, an initiative that figures to be a central component in the Obama administration's strategy to stabilize this country. Local tribal elders credit this reconciliation process, together with the French-led military offensive, for a stark turnaround in the security situation here.

Across the country, violence has soared this year by 79 percent compared with a similar period last year, according to statistics provided by Sami Kovanen of the firm Tundra Security. But Kapisa Province is one of the few where violence has decreased. Insurgent presence has markedly diminished since the offensive and reconciliation efforts, which took place last month.

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