Afghans celebrate start of week-long partial truce

KABUL • A week-long partial truce took hold across Afghanistan yes-terday, with jubilant civilians dancing in the streets as the war-weary country woke up to a potential major turning point in its 18-year-long conflict.

The Taleban, United States and Afghan forces have agreed to a “reduction in violence” which, if it holds, will be only the second lull in fighting since 2001. It is expected to set the conditions for Washington and the insurgents to sign a deal that could ultimately pull out US troops and launch Afghanistan into an uncertain future.

“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,” taxi driver Habib Ullah said in Kabul.

A successful week would show the Taleban can control their forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of any signing, which both the US and the insurgents have said could be done on Feb 29 in Doha.

In southern Kandahar and eastern Jalalabad, Afghans were seen dancing in the streets in celebration overnight. In Kabul, which has for years been one of the deadliest places in the country for civilians, some were more wary.

“A temporary break in war is good but we want a permanent ceasefire,” said government worker Fazul Rahman.

Shopkeeper Emamuddin said that Afghans wanted peace “whatever it takes”.

The United Nations said last year that more than 100,000 people have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan in the last decade.

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

The US said there is an “understanding” for a “significant reduction in violence across Afghan-istan”, 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 been ordered only to refrain from attacking major cities and highways.

Washington has been in talks with the Taleban for more than a year to secure a deal which would see it pull out about half of the 12,000 to 13,000 troops currently in Afghanistan. In return, the Taleban would give security guarantees and a promise to hold peace talks with the government in Kabul.

On Thursday, the group’s deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani penned an op-ed in The New York Times in which he stated that the insurgents are “fully committed” to standing by the agreement.


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