KUNDUZ -- News that intra-Afghan talks could be imminent has bolstered hope among Afghans, who say that the parties to the conflict should work toward reconciliation.
"We have come closer to achieving peace, and both parties should soon give the good news of peace to the public," said Shabana Mirzabaik, a student at Kunduz University.
"Afghans, especially women, have been tired of the war and bloodshed, and they're impatiently waiting for peace to come," she said.
Mirzabaik called on both parties to quickly reach an agreement and present the gift of a full-fledged peace to the Afghan people.
This is the closest that Afghans have come to a permanent peace, said Noorullah Momand, a civil society activist in Kunduz Province.
"Peace is a long-awaited wish of Afghans, and they are now more hopeful for an end to the war in the country," said Momand.
"One of the Taliban's major demands was the release of their 5,000 prisoners, most of whom have been released, so Afghans won't accept any further excuses by the Taliban," he said.
Afghan authorities already have freed about 3,000 Taliban inmates and plan to further release 2,000 as stipulated in the deal as a condition for talks with the Taliban. For its part, the Taliban has released more than 500 prisoners who worked for the government.
"As prisoners are released every day by both parties, it reveals that the level of trust between them has risen," said Nasima Hazrati, a civil society activist in Sar-e-Pul Province.
"The obstacles to the intra-Afghan peace talks need to be removed as soon as possible so that the process can begin," said Asadullah Achakzai, a resident of Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province.
"As the prisoner swap was implemented based on the peace agreement, the Taliban should now realise that the Afghan government seriously intends peace," he added.
Expectations from peace talks
Even as Afghans back the imminent peace talks, concerns remain over the Taliban's ties to foreign terrorist groups and the oppression the group committed during its time in power.
"If the Taliban don't sever their relations with these [terrorist] networks after a peace settlement with the Afghan government, an end to the war will become impossible," said Lt. Gen. (ret.) Hazratullah Qayoumi, now a military affairs analyst in Badakhshan.
Foreign terrorists provide financial support, repair services, health care, explosives and military training to the Taliban, he said.
The Taliban are working with a group of 500 foreign fighters in the province, said Naik Muhammad Nazari, a spokesman for the Badakhshan governor, May 21.
The foreign fighters have been battling security forces on the front line in Warduj and Yamgan districts and in the Dar-e-Khastak area of Jurm District in Badakhshan, and they have close relations with local Taliban members, he said.
"The Taliban violated the peace agreement and broke their promise with the United States," he added.
"The presence of foreign terrorists is now clear," said Bashir Ahmad Samim, chairman of the Badakhshan provincial council. "They lead fighting on the front lines and help the local Taliban with training, advice and manufacture of improvised explosive devices."
"If this situation continues, it could lead to the breakdown of the peace agreement and create threats to the [Afghan] government and countries in the region," said Samim.
"The United Nations should get guarantees from the Taliban that they won't support terrorist groups after the peace settlement," said Mohammad Yusuf Ayubi, chairman of the Kunduz provincial council.
"Peace shouldn't restrict our rights or liberties," he added. "Our young people should focus on their education to prosper."
"In the past, the Taliban shut down the schools, but after [their return], they have to allow our daughters to go to school and let us live in peace," he said.
"Any peace that deprives Afghans of their liberties and causes fears among them isn't acceptable," said Ainullah Adeeb, a political affairs analyst in Kunduz.
"The government should create jobs for the Taliban in the next government and mobilise them as 'Arbakis' against ISIS [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'] and other terrorist groups," he said, referring to an ancient tribal security system.
"We invite the Taliban to come and live like us; they [the Taliban]... are all Afghans," he said. "The Taliban are our brothers, and they belong to Afghanistan."