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Afghans celebrate as week-long truce with Taliban begins

Marking a new beginning:People in Kandahar celebrate the start of a truce between the Taliban, the U.S. and Afghan forces on Saturday.

Marking a new beginning:People in Kandahar celebrate the start of a truce between the Taliban, the U.S. and Afghan forces on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

This could be followed by a peace deal on February 29

A week-long, partial truce appeared to be largely holding across Afghanistan on Saturday, with jubilant civilians celebrating in the streets to mark a potentially historic turning point in the war, even as isolated attacks threatened to undermine the process.

The Taliban, U.S. and Afghan forces have all agreed to a so-called “reduction in violence” marking only the second lull in fighting since 2001. “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,” Kabul taxi driver Habib Ullah said, while in other parts of the country people danced in the streets.

Attack in Balkh

However in Balkh province in the north, Taliban fighters attacked a district headquarters near the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing two Afghan soldiers, said an official. There were also reports of a separate incident in central Uruzgan province.

General Scott Miller, who leads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, did not directly address those incidents, but stressed that Western forces would continually monitor the situation. In the event of any breaches of the truce, Gen. Miller said the U.S. would communicate with the Taliban through various channels set up in Doha, where the insurgents have a political office.

The partial truce is expected to set the conditions for Washington and the insurgents to sign a deal in Doha on February 29 that could, ultimately, pull U.S. troops out after more than 18 years and launch war-weary Afghanistan into an uncertain future. A successful week would show the Taliban can control their forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of any signing.

Details of how exactly the reduction in violence will work have remained scant.

The U.S. 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.

In Kandahar, one insurgent said he had received orders to stand down — but another said he had only been ordered to refrain from attacking major cities and highways.

Washington has been in talks with the Taliban for more than a year to secure a deal.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 7:41:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/afghans-celebrate-as-week-long-truce-with-taliban-begins/article30890729.ece

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