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In remote Afghan valley, a rare peace sprouts with insurgents

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President Hamid Karzai, who officially confirmed he will run for reelection in August, on Monday hosted British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to discuss strategy. Mr. Brown said the West's security "depends on stability in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan," which he called "the crucible of terrorism." Washington, which believes that the majority of insurgents are not primarily motivated by an extremist ideology, hopes it may be able to lure such fighters to the government side.

"There may be some who could be considered extremists," says Shah, speaking of his fellow fighters, "but most of us are just ordinary people wanting the same things that all human beings want, such as jobs and well-being for our families."

Cash and jobs instead of guns

The Afghan government, through an agency called the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, has mediated with hundreds of insurgents. Since its founding in 2005, the commission has even enticed some insurgent commanders to switch sides. In addition, a parallel effort is under way with the US-funded Afghan Social Outreach Program, an agency associated with the office of the president.

Both programs aim to win over insurgents with cash and promises of jobs and land. In Logar Province, for example, nearly three dozen fighters defected in March, and those without land were promised plots.

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