Afghans call for swift start to intra-Afghan talks

KABUL (TOLO News): Dozens of residents in the western provinces of Ghor and Herat at separate gatherings called for a swift start to the long-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations, which are expected to follow a US-Taliban peace deal.

US negotiators and Taliban members have held more than ten rounds of talks in the Gulf state of Qatar to broker a peace deal expected to eventually open the way for the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan and pave the way for an Afghan delegation to sit together with the Taliban and discuss a way forward.

Over the past few weeks, calls by Afghan activists as well as people in rural communities and urban cities have increased through different gatherings and social media platforms, all calling for a fast start to the intra-Afghan negotiations.

The process faces delays from the new demands made by the US representatives in Doha who want a commitment from the Taliban for a long-term reduction in violence or ceasefire.

Also, there is much disagreement in Kabul about which delegates and what plan should be offered from the Afghan side in the coming intra-Afghan talks.

The participants of gatherings in Ghor and Herat–who have faced a rise in conflict in their provinces since last summer – said the bloodshed should end as it sacrifices only Afghans.

“As a young girl, I wish for a countrywide peace in Afghanistan so that the youth can get an education like in other countries and achieve their dreams,” Herat resident Freshta Sarwari said.

“War has not yielded a result. It is better to sit together and achieve peace,” said Abdul Qadir Bahrami, a resident of Herat.

The Ghor gathering was attended by “hundreds of people,” according to multiple attendants of the event, and they commemorated the first anniversary of the death of Mohammad Ibrahim Malikzada, a Ghor lawmaker who passed away due to an illness in February 2019.

“The Ghor women want peace,” said Farida Naseri, a resident of Ghor. “We want an end to the bloodshed.”

“Peace is the only solution to Afghanistan’s problems,” said Ramazan Akhundzada, head of the Hajj and Religious Affairs Directorate of Ghor. “We call on the Afghan government, the warring sides and armed militants to address the people’s demand (for peace).”

Some religious scholars in the gathering called the ongoing war illegitimate and asked the warring sides to end their hostility.

“The two sides of the war are Muslims… In some cases, they are buried together in one place,” said Abdul Bari Qanit, a religious scholar.

“All Afghan citizens have realized that they are the main victims of the war; therefore, we do not want to be a tool for outsiders’ goals,” said Abdul Basir Danishyar, professor at Ghor University.