Afghanistan cautiously optimistic about deal
KABUL: After nearly 20 years of war, “we are tired, and the Taliban is tired,” Lt. Gen. Wali Mohammed Ahmadzai, the top Afghan army commander in Helmand province, told The Washington Post. “This war is just destroying everything.” Friday is the final day of a week-long “reduction in violence” between the Taliban and U.S-backed Afghan forces designed to build trust before the US and Taliban likely sign a peace deal Saturday.
There were no “significant” breach of the violence-reduction pact as of Thursday, Ahmadzai said. But at one of the government army bases in Helmand, 2nd Lt. Aghagul Afghan said he doesn’t really “know what this term ‘reduction in violence’ means,” telling the Post: “We didn’t receive very detailed orders, just a call on the radio. My commander told me we are not allowed to attack the Taliban, otherwise we will be prosecuted. All they told me is, ‘Don’t make problems for us.’”
The details of the peace plan aren’t publicly available. President Trump said the 13,000 US troops in Afghanistan would but cut to 8,600, and the Taliban, which would vow not to host extremists planning to attack the US, tells The Associated Press all US forces could be out of the country in 14 months. If the US and Taliban sign the agreement, representatives from the Taliban and Afghan government are supposed to sit down within 15 days and try to negotiate the contours of Afghanistan’s future. That’s not a sure thing, as the Post’s Susannah George explains.
“Many Afghans view Saturday’s expected signing of a US-Taliban peace deal with a heavy dose of well-earned skepticism,” AP reports. “They’ve spent decades living in a country at war — some their whole lives.” But the week of reduced violence is important in itself, says Andrew Watkins at the International Crisis Group. “If these Afghans can live through a week’s respite of fighting, that might begin to change wider perceptions of whether or not a lasting peace is possible.”(The Washington Post)