Eidi Mohammed, a former Taliban commander who recently renounced violence and sought amnesty under the Afghan government’s reconciliation program, has had another change of heart. Now he is thinking about rejoining his old comrades. Jobless and losing hope he will ever find work, Mr. Mohammed, 38, took his frustrations to provincial officials. They told him there was nothing they could do. …

He is not alone. Interviews with more than a dozen former insurgents find a group embittered and torn about their choice to lay down their arms. Many are unable to work and often unable to return to their villages for safety reasons; most feel the government has cheated them. …

Two years into one of the most ambitious efforts to lure Taliban fighters off the battlefield, many Afghan and Western officials acknowledge that the results have been disappointing. Though the number of people claiming the amnesty has swelled in the past year, violence remains high in the hotbeds of the insurgency, where the program has struggled to take hold.

Of the roughly 6,100 participants so far, 80 percent come from the relatively peaceful north and west of the country, where the Taliban presence is thinnest. And even some of those fighters say their activity was more criminal than political or ideological, even though the program was designed to flip the most committed fighters.