Security

Afghans celebrate partial ceasefire with dreams of life after war

AFP

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Men and youths February 22 in Kandahar Province dance as they celebrate the first day of 'reduction in violence' agreed among the Taliban and US and Afghan forces. [Javed Tanveer/AFP]

KABUL -- With a partial truce under way since February 22 and a potential peace deal between the United States and the Taliban on the horizon, Afghans are daring to dream of an end to the country's 18-year-old war.

The "reduction in violence" agreed to by the Taliban and by US and Afghan security forces comes ahead of a possible deal between the insurgents and Washington that would see the United States pull thousands of troops out of Afghanistan.

The Unite States has said there is an "understanding" for a "significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan", while Afghan security forces will remain "on active defence status" during the week.

"The Taliban must demonstrate their commitment to a meaningful reduction in violence," US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said on Twitter.

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An Afghan refugee, left, distributes sweets February 22 at the Khurasan refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, to celebrate the 'reduction in violence' agreed to earlier by the Taliban and US and Afghan forces. [Abdul Majeed/AFP]

"Should the Taliban reject the path of peace, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our Afghan partners," he added.

While the move is fraught with uncertainty, it marks a potentially historic step in ending the long conflict.

On February 22, some jubilant civilians took to the streets to celebrate the reduction in violence period as the war-weary country woke up to what is potentially a major turning point in the war.

"It is the first morning that I go out without the fear of being killed by a bomb or suicide bomber. I hope it continues forever," taxi driver Habib Ullah told AFP in Kabul.

In Kandahar, considered the Taliban heartland, and Jalalabad, dozens of Afghans could be seen dancing the attan -- a traditional Pashtun dance -- in the streets in celebration.

"A temporary break in war is good, but we want a permanent ceasefire," said government worker Fazul Rahman, adding he also wants peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul to begin "as soon as possible".

Afghans have been sharing their hopes for peace on social media, tagging posts with hashtags #ifPeaceComes and #whenThereIsCeasefire.

"In the past 15 years, people have not been able to travel on highways safely. The Taliban stop them, kill them or kidnap them," Ramin Mazhar, a popular poet who helped spread the hashtags, told AFP.

If the reduction in violence holds, Mazhar said he would go to Nuristan, a remote province in the northeast of the country.

"I want to go to Nuristan, run, laugh, sing, dance, whistle and eat yogurt," he said.

"I want to touch its green hills, crazy rivers and blue sky. I want to climb its trees, and know its pigeons," he added.

'Sorrows and happiness'

Afghanistan was once a popular destination on the "hippie trail" that saw foreigners from across Europe travel to the country by bus en route to India in the 1960s and 1970s.

Tourism was all but destroyed following the Soviet invasion in 1979 that led to more than 40 years of fighting and instability.

Few Afghans have been able to visit areas outside of their immediate home ever since, while millions have relocated to urban areas or moved abroad.

The desire to see more of the country is strong.

Afghanistan is home to stunning mountain ranges like the snow-capped Hindu Kush along with verdant, remote valleys and swathes of pristine desert.

"I have promised to take my friends to Badakhshan... [and] will fulfill my promise only when there is a ceasefire," Abdullah Jahid wrote on Twitter.

"If peace comes, I will go to the remotest villages of Afghanistan to meet with the indigenous people, eat their food, learn about their handcrafts and share my sorrows and happiness with them," added Hamidullah Satari, another Twitter user.

The burst in enthusiasm comes as the Taliban and United States are expected to strike a deal on February 29 that would see American troops withdraw from the country in exchange for security guarantees, after more than a year of talks.

Most analysts agree a subsequent agreement between the Taliban and the government in Kabul would take years, but the breakthrough has spurred hopes.

Afghans from all walks of life have been using the hashtags -- outlining journeys to be taken by foot, bicycle or by car, while Afghans living abroad have vowed to return to their country and settle if the war ends.

Others have said they hope any peace will provide an opportunity to help those who have suffered the most after decades of bloodshed.

Heela Najibullah -- the daughter of former Afghan President Najibullah Ahmadzai who was brutally tortured and murdered by the Taliban in 1996 -- said she hoped to visit her father's grave in Paktia Province.

"I will walk to my father's grave. I will cry and pray that no other Afghan child becomes an orphan," she tweeted.

"I will make a school there, and teach at the university," she said.

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Political leaders of Afghanistan should avoid discords and think about bringing peace to the country. Now it is time for peace. They should establish an inclusive government with the Taliban.

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صلح در موجودیت ایتلاف شمال، بخصوص جمعیت اسلامی و عبدالله عبدالله که می کوشند تا پروسه صلح را مختل بسازند امکان پذیر نیست. آنها در افغانستان صلح نمیخواهند بخاطریکه آنها منافع خود را در جنگ می بینند. در طی ۲۰ سال گذشته آنها پول زیاد پیدا کردند. همه ای آنها میلیونر هستند. آنها همه ای این پول را از کجا پیدا کردند؟ ۲۰ سال قبل آنها حتی بوت نداشتند تا بپوشند. آنها در کوهها با پاهای برهنه می گشتند. اکنون در موترهای قیمتی سفر می کنند. به همین خاطر است که آنها بر سر قدرت در افغانستان دعوا می کنند و آنها نتیجه انتخابات را نمی پذیرند. پس از فروپاشی رژیم طالبان در سال ۲۰۰۱، امریکا یک اشتباه بزرگ را با تسلیم کردن حکومت به آنها مرتکب شد. این مردم نباید به قدرت می رسیدند. آنها جنایتکار و جنگسالار هستند. آنها مسئول ۴۰ سال جنگ در افغانستان هستند. آنها مسئول بوجود آمدن طالبان هستند. طالبان بخاطر آنها بوجود آمدند. در سال ۱۹۹۵ پس از سقوط نظام کمونیستی، این مجاهدین خانه های مردم را غارت کردند. آنها به ناموس مردم تجاوز کردند. آنها حتی انسان ها را خوردند. به همین خاطر طالبان بوجود آمدند و همه مردم افغانستان از طالبان در مقابل این جنگسالاران حمایت کردند.

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Afghan people are really happy for the one week partial ceasefire. I ask all the people to utilize greatly from this peaceful atmosphere which is created. All the masses of the society should feel the responsibility and work towards peace in Afghanistan. All the political leaders, anti government elements, Taliban and others should do something for the sake of God and these poor people of Afghanistan so that we reach to a political settlement.

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Peace is the demands of all the Afghan people. they are all thirsty for peace, but there are some countries who do not want peace in afghanistan because their strategic aims are in fighting in afghanistan. Some countries like unites states, russia, iran and so on have weapons making factories and they have to produce millions of weapons and they need market for their products to sell. so they have to create war in some weak countries so that to find market for their products. so these countries do not want peace in Afghanistan, if peace comes, then their weapon making factories will be closed down. they will make loss. War is enough in this countries, the countries which started war in afghanistan should be fear from God and stop this destructive war and have mercy on the poor afghan people. I strongly want from the United States of America to put to an end to this war. if united states want, it can stop this war, because when united stated could overthrow the Taliban regime in 2001 which ruled over 95 percent of afghanistan territory in just one month, now it can end this war as well if it wants. if united states does not bring peace in afghanistan, it will be blame for all the human crisis which will happen after the reduction in violence of the Taliban.

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