KABUL -- As university student Fazila Salehi enjoyed a rare late night out with her family -- thanks to a partial truce across Afghanistan -- she struggled to shake off a sense of foreboding about her country's future.
According to the timetable set out in an agreement signed February 29 between Washington and the Taliban, all foreign troops will withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months in exchange for security guarantees and a pledge by the militants to hold talks with Kabul.
The deal came on the back of a week-long limited truce that has since been extended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, with a dramatic drop in attacks giving Afghans a rare opportunity to go about their daily lives without fear of violence.
"It was the best week of my life; it was a peaceful week," Salehi told AFP, describing her night-time excursion to the outskirts of her hometown of Herat as "a sweet dream".
"In eight months this was the first time we were out to have some fun," the 20-year-old said.
But the taste of freedom was bittersweet, she admitted, as she grappled with the possibility that the Taliban, whose brutal five-year rule of 1996-2001 confined women to their homes and barred girls from attending school, could once again have a say over her life.
"We are afraid and nervous. As a woman, I don't expect to be allowed to go out and enjoy the same freedom I have now," the journalism student said.
"I am planning to work after I graduate, but if the Taliban return, I don't think they would allow me," she added.
The Taliban Monday (March 2) said they were resuming offensive operations against Afghan security forces, ending the partial truce.
"The reduction in violence... has ended now, and our operations will continue as normal," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP.
The declaration comes only a day after Ghani said he would continue the partial truce at least until talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban kick off, supposedly on March 10.
Mixed feelings on accord
Millions of Afghans fled the country during the 1990s while it was in the throes of a brutal civil war and as the Taliban took control.
Khatera Safi's family were among those who sought refuge in neighbouring Iran.
"They fled so my sister and I could go to school... but it was always their dream to come back to Afghanistan," the 29-year-old human rights activist told AFP in Kabul.
Her family returned to the country in 2006, five years after a United States-led invasion toppled the Taliban and set the stage for the transition to a Western-backed democracy.
Safi has mixed feelings about the peace agreement.
"I am optimistic in the sense that lives will not be lost, [but] when it comes to the laws imposed by the Taliban and their strict ideology, I am very concerned," she said.
"Maybe we won't witness any more suicide attacks or explosions in Afghanistan, but instead we might lose our independence as Afghan women," photographer Nilofar Niekpor said.
Still, others said the prospect of peace was worth the risk of negotiating with the Taliban.
"I hope both sides keep their promise to extend the reduction in violence and work for a long-lasting peace," Herat-based university professor Khalil Rasuli said.
"My family and I went to a lot of fun places in the past week... to breathe some fresh air, to see green spaces," he said
"My children and I went out for ice cream almost every day," Rasuli said, adding that such revelry would have been "impossible" even weeks ago.
'How will I support my family?'
Under the Taliban, women were barred from seeking education or work -- rights that Afghan female professionals are fiercely protective of today.
In Herat city, saleswoman Setara Akrimi, 32, told AFP: "I will be very happy if peace comes and the Taliban stop killing our people."
"But if the Taliban come back to power... with their old mentality, it is a matter of concern for me," the divorced mother of three added.
"If they tell me to sit at home, I will not be able to support my family," she said. "There are thousands of women like me in Afghanistan. We are all worried."
But in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, schoolgirl Parwana Hussaini struck a rare optimistic note.
"I am not worried. Who are the Taliban? They are our brothers," the 17-year-old told AFP. "We are all Afghans and want peace."
"The young generation has changed and will not allow the Taliban to enforce their old ideology upon us," she added.