Greetings from Kabul. Here are a few observations, thoughts, and feelings about the ceasefire in Afghanistan.
On the occasion of Eid ul Fitr celebrating the end of Ramazan (June 15,16,17), Pres Ashraf Ghani declared a ceasefire regarding the Afghan Taliban alone, to last from June 11 to 19. Soon thereafter, the Taliban declared that they too would observe a ceasefire, but only during the three day Eid. These announcements were received by the beligured public with overwhelming joy and as the best gift to the entire nation in nearly 40 years.
The government also announced that unarmed Taliban can go freely and safely any where in the country visiting families, friends and places. Given the length of the 17-year war, the depth of mutual hostilities, widespread cynicism, and the sheer complexity of this war, many first reacted with skepticism. But on the first day of Eid on Friday real peace broke out and soon peace fever gripped the nation from one end to the other. Countless unarmed Taliban poured into towns, cities, and villages; and the response by the public and the Afghan National Security Forces was warm, friendly, and joyful. The hereto sworn enemies embraced and kissed each other, took pictures and selfies together, prayed together, laughed and danced together, ate together and chanted Allahu Akbar( God is great) together.
Many Talibs visited Kabul and on the city’s western outskirt were greeted by Wais Ahmad Barmak the minister of the Interior, again with hugs, and pictures. By midday, when people realized that the thaw was for real, young and old, men and women of all stripes came out and went into a peace frenzy. I could see people laughing, crying, or simply being speechless. For the seventy five percent of the population who are under 30, this was the first time they got a glimpse of peace. Some Taliban also said this was their first visit with their families in years, or the first time they had ice cream.
Everyone, including the Taliban, asked for the extension of the ceasefire and ending the bloodshed. On this third day of Eid the ceasefire has held firmly throughout the country. There was just one suicide explosion in Nangrahar province where combatants, ANSF and people were celebrating the truce, killing 26 and wounding 60.
Sitting in my apartment on the AUAF campus, this is the first time I don’t feel tense and threatened in the 17 years I have been coming here. Expatraites are generally not allowed to leave the campus. May be I will now be able to visit my two sisters and there families whom I have not seen in months. Seeing much bloodshed, fratricide, suffering, and pain, it is indeed a very special and moving experience. It brings tears to my eyes.
It is clear that people have had it with war and mayhem and the consequent misery. And since the people simply have no faith in the government or its foreign patrons. So more and more people are taking it upon themselves to end the carnage. Women in Jalalabad and some other places risked their lives and marched for peace.
And then there is the March for Peace which started by 8 men in Grishk in Helmand province some 600 kilo meters about 35 days ago. Even in 100 plus degree weather, it has grown to about 90 men. The march has been received with tremendous support everywhere and it will arrive in Kabul in a day or two to very large crowds of people.
Peace and reconciliation is THE subject of every conversation here, people calling on the opposition, the government and all the foreigners to end Afghanistan’s agony so they can resume their normal lives and rebuild the country. The Taliban consider the regime as a puppet which they will not talk to. They insist on talking to the US government which they perceive as the occupying enemy. Washington just said it was willing to be part of the negotiations. America’s longest war has cost it a trillion dollars, 2600 lives and countless wounded; and it has killed and maimed countless Afghans as well as destroying the country itself. It is high time this madness ended.
Zaher Wahab teaches at the American University in Kabul. He blogs at http://dispatchesfromafghanistan.tumblr.com/