Lasting peace should be goal in Afghanistan - GulfToday

Lasting peace should be goal in Afghanistan

Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani

The agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban after a seven-day period of reduced violence in Afghanistan does send a positive signal, but hurdles remain and there is still a long way to go.

The ultimate objective for all sides should be to achieve the deep aspirations of Afghan people for lasting peace.

The immediate aim should be complete reduction in violence and creation of workable conditions for intra-Afghan peace negotiations to be met.

The United States insists it is committed to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 − from the current 13,000 − within 135 days of signing the deal, and working with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over that period, if the Taliban adhere to their commitments.

But the deal has already hit its first snag.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has declared that he will not free thousands of Taliban prisoners ahead of all-Afghan power-sharing talks set for next week, publicly disagreeing with a timetable for a speedy prisoner release laid out just a day earlier in a US-Taliban peace agreement.

This is an indication of the underlying obstacles in implementing the fragile deal, which is aimed at ending America’s longest war after more than 18 years and getting rival Afghan factions to agree on their country’s future.

The Afghan people have been yearning for peace for long.

In the week before Saturday’s deal signing, a partial truce dubbed a “reduction in violence” saw jubilant Afghans dancing in the street as hopes rose that the 18-year-old war might finally come to an end.

Afghans in eastern Nangarhar posted pictures of dozens of men dancing in the street to celebrate the signing.

In the eastern Khost province, a Taliban stronghold, the night sky was alight with red tracer bullets fired by celebrating residents.

Footballers in southern Helmand Province, also a Taliban stronghold that has seen heavy violence, began a three-day soccer tournament to celebrate the signing.

Meaningless violence has remained a norm in the country and the situation cannot be allowed to continue.

More than 10,000 civilians in Afghanistan were killed and injured last year alone, as per a new United Nations report that details record-high levels of civilian harm in the ongoing conflict.

Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence, according to Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The report, entitled Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: 2019, documents 3,403 civilians killed and 6,989 injured.

It is the sixth year in a row that the number of civilian casualties has exceeded 10,000.

After more than a decade of systematically documenting the impact of the war on civilians, the UN found that in 2019 the number of civilian casualties had surpassed 100,000.

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, as Yamamoto points out.

Peace should be given a chance as an entire generation of children in the country has only seen violence around them, when they are supposed to be studying in schools or playing merrily in the gardens.

The world community should help Afghan people achieve their aspiration to secure peace, stability and prosperity.

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