Kabul, 9 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says a program to disarm thousands of factional fighters will begin over the next few weeks. Karzai told reporters that a $51 million pledge he had received from international donors at a conference in Tokyo last month would help to start the process to demobilize and disarm former soldiers.
Karzai's Western-backed administration has said that it would demobilize the fighters before national elections -- due in mid-2004 -- and absorb them in the new Afghan national army and civilian jobs.
Few in Afghanistan, however, believe that the rival warlords who control large parts of the countryside will give up their weapons easily. Ethnic and tribal differences have been at the heart of most of the disputes in the country since a civil war erupted after the Soviet Union ended its occupation in 1989.