HERAT -- More than 100 religious scholars February 22 visited the Afghan National Army 207th Zafar Corps base in Guzara District, Herat Province, to show their support amid a partial truce with the Taliban.
Religious scholars have declared their support for the security forces for years, and they are always praising these forces during their sermons, said Maulawi Sayed Muhammad Hussaini, a religious scholar in Herat Province.
"We have come to the 207th Zafar Corps to encourage the security forces and show them that we support and stand with them," he added. "There is hope that a decline in violence by the Taliban will pave the way for a lasting and dignified peace in the country."
The Taliban and US and Afghan forces have agreed to a one-week "reduction in violence" that began February 22, marking only the second lull in fighting since 2001. The United States and the Taliban have also agreed to sign a peace deal on February 29 in Doha following the partial truce.
"We call for preserving the security forces and their achievements in the peace process," added Hussaini. "The security forces have bravely defended Afghanistan for the past 20 years. We expect that the Taliban will work alongside the security forces in ensuring security in Afghanistan once they join the peace process."
"If we don't have strong security forces, we can't achieve a sustainable peace or prevent interference by neighbouring and regional countries," he said.
"It is the public's religious duty to support the security forces from the bottom of their hearts because the security forces have been able to defend the country and ensure security under tough circumstances," said Maulawi Jalaluddin, director of the Islamic Teachings Unit at the Herat Department of Hajj and Religious Affairs.
"A large number of Afghan National Defence and Security Forces members have lost their lives while defending Afghanistan, and it is obligatory for us to support the security forces by praising their sacrifices," he added.
"We welcome the drop in violent incidents, and we hope that it is a step toward a lasting peace in the country," he said.
The Afghan security forces are a shared achievement of the Afghan people, and much effort has been put into creating them; therefore, they have to be preserved forever, Jalaluddin added.
All the achievements of the Afghan people and government should be protected in the peace process, he said.
"A country that lacks security forces is like a house without a door or a fence," he added. "Therefore, the security forces should remain functional so that they can defend the country and the public."
Decline in violence
The residents of Herat Province have welcomed the drop in the Taliban's attacks.
"We call on the government and the Taliban to engage in peace talks and find a solution for ending the war," said Mirwais Rahmani, a resident of Herat city. "We hope that the decline in incidents of violence gives rise to a permanent ceasefire and peace in the country."
"A ceasefire needs to be declared so that we don't see unrest... and incidents of violence all over Afghanistan," said Rahmani.
"Civilians, the government and the Taliban are all tired of war, and everyone wants peace," he said.
"We welcome the temporary ceasefire, and we call on the security forces, the Taliban and international forces to remain committed to their pledges and not to engage in fighting and violence," said Abdul Ghani, another resident of Herat city.
As the Taliban have accepted a reduction in violence and a partial ceasefire, they should declare a permanent ceasefire and peace as well, he said.
"We support the reduction in violent incidents in Afghanistan, and we hope that the decline in violence can help us reach a permanent ceasefire and a sustainable and ubiquitous peace in the country," said Wakil Ahmad Muhammadi, a resident of Qala-e-Naw, Badghis Province.
The reduction in violence is the Taliban's green light for peace and the group is ready to make peace, he said.
Preparations for possible threats
Since the start of the partial truce, security forces in the western region have paused their operations while remaining on high alert, say officials.
No Taliban attacks have occurred in the western region so far, Brig. Gen. Zabihullah Mohmand, commander of the 207th Zafar Corps, told reporters on February 22.
The security forces are on alert in the entire western region, and if a security incident erupts or anyone tries to attack the security forces, they will face a serious response, he said.
"There is a possibility that some individuals among the Taliban won't observe the reduction in violence, or they may want to continue their attacks," added Mohmand. "There are full preparations in place, and they will be destroyed."
The Afghan security forces are fighting for peace but will never enter peace or war from a weak position, he said.
The reduction in violence provides the best opportunity to ensure a lasting ceasefire and ultimately peace in Afghanistan, and this chance should never be missed, said Basir Ahmad Danishyar, a political analyst in Herat city.
"The Taliban and security forces should abide by their pledges and not raise their weapons," he added. "It is possible that a tiny mistake by the Taliban or government forces could scuttle the opportunity in front of us."
"The reduction in violence... has been achieved after months of efforts and bargaining," said Danishyar.
"The period of violence reduction needs to be extended from one week so that trust can be built between the government and the Taliban that can lead to the beginning of peace talks," he said.