Security

Though concerns remain, Afghans welcome Taliban peace talks with open arms

By Hedayatullah

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Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers on May 26 escort a convoy of Taliban prisoners during their release from the Bagram prison outside the US military base in Bagram, about 50 km north of Kabul. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

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."

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Aren't Taliban Afghan? Taliban are also Afghans. Do not write that Afghans have open arms to welcome them, but instead say that the government welcome them with open arms.

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Taliban committed atrocities when they were in power, and they committed killings of human beings hundred times more after the collapse of their regime. You should write in your news about all of their cruelties. They have martyred more than 60000 brave soldiers of the army. This itself is considered a crime against humanity.

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All Afghans are thirsty for peace and they welcome making peace with Taliban; however, the fact is that such peace should be made with Taliban which can end the fighting forever, and the dignity of the people of Afghanistan should be saved in this peace. It should not be peace after which Pakistan and or other countries interfere here. I think before making peace, the foreign policy of the government which is being made jointly with Taliban should be defined clearly because Afghanistan was destroyed by foreign countries during the last forty years. Afghanistan should be an independent country and it should have its own foreign policy.

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Afghans have to support the peace process with Taliban; there is no choice but to make peace with Taliban. The Afghan war has no military solution. The international community and America have to think of a political settlement, not the military war. The United States of America made a very big mistake at the Bonn Conference, as it did not invite Taliban to the Bonn Conference. America thought that its forces would destroy Taliban, but it did not think that Taliban is a school of thought that would not end with the killing of their individuals, but other people would join in the ranks of the group. America had to learn lesson from the defeat of Russia and England [United Kingdom], and never had to think of a military solution. Therefore, after overthrowing of Taliban rule, the United States should have gathered all the groups, including Taliban, and told them that they all have to establish a joint and strong government where all parties are included, but America did not do so. America spent hundreds of billion dollars and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan, and after 20 years, it left Afghanistan and surrendered the government back to Taliban. Zalmai Khalilzad was also blameful in this mistake. Khalilzad should have told the United States that Taliban should be invited to the Bonn Conference, and America should not bring their troops to Afghanistan, because Afghans are sensitive to military presence and they have fought against the foreign military troops in the length of history, and they have never lived under foreigners’ rule. Therefore, All Afghans support the peace process and want from America to end the Afghan war as soon as possible and bring peace in the country, because it was blameful for 20 years war in Afghanistan and it should now feel the responsibility towards this country.

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