KABUL: A week-long, partial truce came into effect 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, reports AFP.
The Taliban, US and Afghan forces have all agreed to a so-called “reduction in violence” which, if it holds, will be 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.
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, a local official told AFP.
The attack came after midnight, when the partial truce had already kicked in. There were also reports of a separate incident in central Uruzgan province. General Scott Miller, who leads US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, stressed that Western forces would continually monitor the “reduction in violence”.
“The objective here is that we reduce violence for Afghanistan and that it doesn’t spike,” Miller told reporters, adding that he was confident of the Taliban’s overall commitment to the process. The partial truce is expected to set the conditions for Washington and the insurgents to sign a deal that could, ultimately, pull US 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, which both the US and the insurgents have said could be done on February 29 in Doha.
It also gives a much-needed respite to civilians, who have long borne the brunt of the bloody war.The UN’s Afghanistan mission said Saturday that more than 10,000 people had been killed or wounded in the war in 2019 alone.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year, the United Nations announced Saturday, as a historic partial truce kicked in across the country, reports AFP.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 3,404 civilians were killed and 6,989 were injured in 2019.
While the number was down five percent from 2018, it was nonetheless the sixth year straight that the war caused more than 10,000 casualties, UNAMA said.
“Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said.
“It is absolutely imperative for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long overdue; civilian lives must be protected and efforts for peace are under way.”
The five-percent drop in casualties was attributed to the decrease in activity by the local Islamic State affiliate in eastern Afghanistan, which was largely wiped out last year.
On Saturday, a partial truce, being referred to by warring parties as a “reduction in violence”, started across Afghanistan.
The Taliban, the US and Afghan forces have agreed to cut violence for seven days ahead of the planned February 29 signing of a US-Taliban deal that could begin to end the war.
The United States has been in talks with the Taliban for more than a year to secure the deal, in which it would pull out thousands of troops in return for Taliban security guarantees and a promise to hold peace talks with the government in Kabul.
The UNAMA report said there had been significant fluctuations in violence throughout 2019, coinciding with gains and setbacks made during US-Taliban negotiations.