The ‘reduction in violence’ week between the US and Afghan militaries and the Taleban started after midnight on 22 February. It is to open the door for a US-Taleban deal on troop withdrawal and anti-terrorism guarantees to be signed on 29 February 2020 and, in the next step, for intra-Afghan peace negotiations. AAN researchers wanted to understand what civilians thought about the quasi-truce and whether it changed the situation in their areas and had an impact on their daily lives. The AAN team interviewed 34 Afghans, nine women and 25 men, to try to find out their opinions on days three, four and five of that week. We heard some scepticism, but mostly an overwhelming hope that the reduction in violence week might turn into a permanent ceasefire and finally peace. The interviews were carried out by Khadija Hossaini, Reza Kazemi, Obaid Ali, Ehsan Qaane, Ali Mohammad Sabawoon, Fazal Muzhary, Rohullah Sorush and Sayed Asadullah Sadat. Men and youths dancing the Attan to celebrate the first day of 'reduction in violence' in Kandahar province on 22 February 2020. Photo: Javed Tanveer/AFP.
AAN did similar reporting during the three-day Eid ceasefire in June 2018 (read here).
Female journalist (name withheld), Moqor, Ghazni province
I couldn’t believe it [when I first heard about the ‘reduction of violence,’], I did not think it would actually happen, I thought there were too many internal and external factors at play that would make a ceasefire impossible. There was also this fear about other terrorist groups operating in Ghazni and other provinces.
So far, it has proven effective and it seems that there is a good measure of control on both sides. Almost no incidents during the day time have been reported so far during these [first] three days of the reduction in violence. People still prefer to travel in groups, but seem more comfortable and at ease with the security situation. I believe there should be at least a month of this reduction in violence till you can really get a change in people’s behaviour or perception about the non-violence nature of day to day living, but I can see people are more hopeful about what is going to come in the future.
I think hope is the major change. I am now hopeful, and many other people that I talk to during these three days seem hopeful, too. Well, their first hope is that this reduction of violence will eventually turn into a ceasefire between the government and the Taleban. And their second hope, which is getting stronger, is that the two sides might actually be capable of sitting together and coming up with a solution for peace.
The amount people are moving around has not changed that much. There is still fear of surprise attacks or bombings or kidnapping. Government officials are still fearful of being taken away by the Taleban and people are still afraid of travelling between districts. This is a period to wait and see whether both sides are really committed to their words. That is why seven days is not enough time to evaluate the commitment of both actors.
I am hopeful that this will continue. A ceasefire can help the Taleban and the government to have a clearer perspective on what they are fighting for and whether they should continue fighting or instead negotiate for peace. This is a good time to unite the country. On the first day that the reduction in violence was announced, people from different ethnic groups all came together and danced the Attan [a traditional Afghan dance often performed at important celebrations] in the city of Ghazni, nobody could hide their happiness. That is how eager we are to have peace, that is why we cannot afford to lose hope.
Fawzia Yaftali, Deputy chair of the provincial council, Kunduz province
Due to the nature of my work I have to travel to the districts around Kunduz that are not necessarily always safe. The first thing that came to my mind was some of those long overdue plans for visits that I am eager to do, so as to see more of the people and communities in Kunduz which would help me to do a better job representing them and their voices. However, I know relatives, colleagues and friends who immediately planned visits in the districts during this week, some travelling as far as Qala-ye Zal, Dasht-e Archi and Khanabad. Some also went to the neighbouring province of Takhar, all planning to be back by Friday.
I think, by now, it is clear that the local fighters are under the order and control of the Taleban leadership. There were no cases of violence, attacks or suicide bombing reported in Kunduz, which is somewhat rare, given that Kunduz has always been a battleground for the Taleban.
I was recalling the ceasefire we had in Eid for 3 days [in June 2018], with the Taleban being present in the cities, either armed or not armed. But this went differently. Taleban did not come to meet their family members, nor were they seen around the city.
People are starting to believe that maybe peace is possible. Also, they seem to feel braver and more resilient, and generally happier.
We cannot say [whether there is hope]. It is not up to the people. It is up to the government and the Taleban. However, the last time there was a ceasefire [in June 2018], by the end of the third day [end of Eid], they [the Taleban] took five or seven army soldiers and attacked some security posts [possibly referring to a Taliban attack in Dasht-e Archi immediately after the ceasefire].
Suma, university student, Surkhrod district, Nangrahar
In general, compared to the previous years, this year Nangarhar was relatively calm security-wise. I had not heard anything about the seven days of reduction in violence… [but] now I remember that a few days before people were celebrating in the city.
I am really happy to hear about it [the reduction in violence, having been informed by the AAN interviewer]. It is very happy news for most of us. Those who have lost their family members to the war… are all celebrating the possibility of a lasting peace. I have lost my brother, who was enlisted in the army a few months back. We did not have anyone from our house join the celebrations, but most of our neighbours went to the city and celebrated.
Earlier we were planning for our nawruz (new year) to travel to Mazar-e Sharif. We have never before thought of planning a trip like this. This is as a result of the talks about peace. We are all waiting for it to happen so we can live a normal life, without fear. I want my mother to have the peace of mind that her other children will not be killed in a war with no cause, as my brother was.
I believe in the sincerity of the government in their promises. I support the government of Afghanistan but I cannot say the same about the Taleban. You never know what their real agenda is. It is not the local Taleban who decide on their actions, but their leadership. And the leadership is motivated and influenced by different foreign interests. Of course, we hope for sustainable peace, but I cannot say how much the Taleban are committed to this cause.
Male journalist, Qala-ye Naw city, Badghis
I follow what’s happening in Qala-ye Naw and [the surrounding] districts each day. Yesterday I went to Ab Kamari district and talked to some locals there. Since the reduction in violence was announced, there has been no fighting in Qala-ye Naw and the districts of Badghis. No one has been killed or injured. A military commander told me yesterday that the government has not fired a single bullet so far during the reduction in violence days. Similarly, there has been no fighting initiated by the Taleban.
Before the reduction in violence was declared, there were casualties on a daily basis. Three, four, five people from the government, from the Taleban or civilians were being killed or wounded. Life was just getting worse and worse. The Taleban used to cut off the electricity transmission from Turkmenistan to Qala-ye Naw, which has been connected to the power grid for the last couple of years. Then elders used to approach them and plead for the electricity supply to be reconnected. This (cutting off power) has not happened during the reduction in violence, either.
We all are very happy and satisfied with this reduction in violence. It has already changed our lives. We now have 24-hour access to telecommunication services. Previously our access was being more and more restricted: just a few hours each day. People can now travel freely and without fear. Ordinary people and those in the government have gone to visit their villages [for the first time] after years; for some it has been ten years. Some Taleban have also come to visit their family and friends in government-controlled areas, without letting their officials know about it. I think the Taleban have told their men to stay in their areas during the reduction in violence period.
So people have been enjoying their local, day-to-day life after years [of war]. Some say we know we are alive now and that we live a life that is worth living and that has some meaning in it. In fact, there was jubilation yesterday in Qala-ye Naw. People gathered, sang and danced to celebrate the reduction in violence and call for its continuation.
So, in Badghis, this reduction in violence has met our expectations. This is what I have heard from people from different walks of life, not just in Qala-ye Naw city but also in districts such as Ab Kamari, Qades or Muqur. We expect, hope and beg that this reduction in violence is continued and peace is realised. We are thirsty for peace. Similarly, the local Taleban are as thirsty as we are for peace. They may be even thirstier for it. They have increasingly come under air attack, and their commanders and members are killed and injured. The government, the Taleban and people in general are all tired of this long war in Badghis.
Male employee in the agriculture department, Obeh district, Herat
The situation has changed and we can feel it for ourselves here in Obeh. There are fewer disturbances for people, including civilians and government employees, to travel within the district and to and from Herat city. After seven years, we again have 24-hour access to telecommunication services.
Enjoying 24-hour access to telecommunication and internet is very beneficial for people like me. Previously, I worked during the day and when I returned home in the evening, there was no such access. When telecommunication and internet worked during the day, I was busy at work and had no time for it. Now I can stay in touch with my family and friends in Obeh and Herat city. I can use the internet to continue learning about my field, which is agriculture.
In Obeh there is exactly this sentiment, and this was made clear to us, that if the bozorg-ha (big people) can start to get along with one another and reach a deal, they can change the situation. It was made clear to us that it is up to them to make such decisions. We have seen this and felt the difference during the last three or four days.
We are very hopeful that this reduction in violence or ceasefire will stay and spread all over our country. It is up to the big people to make such decisions. We look forward to the peace to come, so we can live in dignity and move around without fear. For instance, my colleagues in the Directorate of Agriculture in Herat city are thinking about using the remaining days of the reduction in violence to come and visit our agriculture projects in Obeh. We are now carrying out a horticulture project on 150-160 jeribs (1 jerib = 2,000 square metres) of land in the district. Some colleagues are from Herat city, but some are from Kabul and Jalalabad. They haven’t come to visit us and the work we do here in Obeh for the last two or three years.
Female humanitarian working with NRC Afghanistan in Kabul
We live in Khairkhana and I visit different Kabul districts to meet and work with internally displaced communities living in camps or formal and informal settlements. The security during the week has not seen significant changes, Khairkahna is a relatively safe area in Kabul and has always been. The areas that I have visited this week was also relatively stable in terms of security.
I think the change has more to do with people’s perception of day to day security than what actually happened in Kabul this week. After a very long time we are confident that there will not be any attacks on civilians. This was a big deal for so many people. In our family, this promise of security for one week, even if it was just words of two very unreliable sides of the conflict [the government and the Taleban], was dearly celebrated. From children to the adults in the family had an understanding of what it means and it affected us mentally. We had fewer worries, less caution when going around the city in the last two days, which is the last two days of the happy reduction in violence period. I had almost forgotten to think about suicide attacks when I am out in the car, going to districts or traveling between home and office. I think this one week was about a brittle, trembling hope being born; hope for peace, something that we never thought would be possible.
I have seen this hope in my community meetings, where IDPs constantly talked about a possible peace that would allow them to go back to their places of origin. A woman, whom we built a shelter for her and her four children, told me she does not like Kabul’s weather. The past two winters have been worse and when there is peace and she goes back to Helmand, her children will love it there, they will love the winters.
Male shopkeeper, Shindand district, Herat
Things have been good for some two, three days. There has been no fighting. For the last three or four days, telecommunication has become unrestricted (azad) all day and night. People go on with their day-to-day lives in a calm atmosphere. There has been some change, not one hundred per cent, but twenty, or thirty per cent.
The Zavul district government compound is inside a military division (ferqa) and fighting does not happen there. In Zirkoh and Poshtkoh there is no government and no fighting; they are fully in Taleban hands. Kohzur is controlled by a man who has ties with both the government and Taleban. [So in these areas] no difference has come in this respect.
In Shindand district centre where I live and work, telecommunication is now uninterrupted for 24 hours a day. It is only Roshan, however. Etisalat and Afghan Wireless are now available only from 6-7am to about 6pm. For the last one to one-and-a-half-months before the reduction in violence began, we only had access to telecommunication for three hours or so daily, from 6 to 9 am. I do not travel much outside Shindand district centre. 50 per cent or so of people are like me. The remaining half of locals move in and out of Zirkoh, Poshtkoh and other districts. There are many tribal and local conflicts here in Shindand.
Of course, people wish for peace and security to come to Shindand and Afghanistan overall. People are very happy that at least there is now some reduction in war. We do hope it will continue, so that a widespread peace (solh-e sartasari) will come to our country.
Sabrina Himmat, civil society activist in Gardez city, Paktia
The situation has changed in our area as a result of the reduction in violence. People have been celebrated it. We ask the government and the Taleban to start peace talks after this and stop fighting each other. Before the reduction in violence, every day I heard about the war and explosions. Now I do not hear explosions and gunfire. Now people live without fear.
I have not changed my behaviour a lot, but I feel comfortable. When I go to work, I see that people feel happy. I am hopeful that this leads to the intra-Afghan talks. The reduction in violence has created hope that a peace deal might be signed between the US and the Taleban, that that intra-Afghan talks might be launched.
Male civil society activist, Firuzkoh city, Ghor
The government had [in the time before the reduction in violence] launched a major military operation, with the goal of clearing the Taleban from the Herat-Ghor road. 200-300 Taleban were killed in airstrikes. Some 500 Taleban surrendered. That operation has [now] been stopped. War has receded and no fighting has happened during the last three days or so. At the same time, the Taleban have stopped attacking areas under government control. There were many problems like people getting killed or maimed in roadside bomb explosions. There were casualties and displacements caused by the government attacking Taleban areas and the Taleban attacking government areas. People in government areas were afraid of Taleban attacks and people in Taleban areas were afraid of government attacks.
Violence has been reduced all over Ghor province. If there is no fighting even for one day, this is an opportunity for people to live and enjoy their lives. They can travel easily. Some roads blocked by insecurity have recently been opened, and some people have started moving around, especially those not in the military or government in general. Now people in government areas that have long been afraid of Taleban attacks live more peaceful and certain lives. This is because there is little concern about imminent Taleban attacks, at least during this reduction in violence.
We are hopeful that this reduction in violence will lead to a permanent peace in which people can live without fear and roads are not blocked, as a result of which people can travel more freely and basic commodity prices will go down due to easier trade and access.
Female school teacher, Kabul
There is no fear of suicide attacks or explosions in Kabul during the reduction in violence period. My sons and daughters can go out without any fear and I’m conformable that they are safe.
I heard from the TV about the announcement. I was so happy to hear that there won’t be attacks and clashes for a week. Even my brother who is abroad called me saying that if the reduction in violence continues for a month, I would come to Kabul for the nawruz (new year) festival.
During this period, I haven’t seen reports about civilian casualties and clashes. This is wonderful. I feel comfortable when I go out. However, I’m concerned about the end of this period.
I’m very hopeful that this will turn into permanent ceasefire. I’m very keen to see the intra-Afghan talks start and both sides reach an agreement that will stop the fighting. I hope the reduction in violence opens the door for a long-lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Male real estate agent, Taiwara district, Ghor
Taiwara is a mountainous district. Spring is when there is fighting. This winter there was heavy snowfall. During the winter, the Taleban retreat to Farah and Helmand provinces in the south. They come back in spring. There was one Taleban operation around two months ago, in which they killed a police officer and injured two others. Since then, there has been no operation or attack either by the government or Taleban.
Locals are optimistic. They are happy that if this reduction of violence goes on, the Taleban won’t return to attack the district in the coming spring, so there won’t be war again. The same goes for civilians living in Taleban areas. They will be relieved and happy that the government won’t attack those areas. So we can move on towards a reduction in violence and some peace.
We hope that this reduction in violence will be renewed and there will be peace between the government and Taleban. In fact, people are now more worried about the elections. Today we were talking in the downtown market and people were worried about the announcement of two governments and two swearing-in ceremonies by Ghani and Abdullah, who are both thinking about their own seats of power. We are worried that if elections continue to hang in the air and Ghani and Abdullah do not somehow get along with each other, this will damage the reduction in violence and any peace process that could come out of it.
Saranwal (attorney) Hila Mujtaba, Kabul
The reduction in violence has brought new hope to my life as it paves the way for a permanent peace in Afghanistan. I felt very happy when I heard about the reduction in violence, because our people would get to live in a calm atmosphere.
The killings of our people and our soldiers has decreased in the provinces, which I am very happy about. When I see that people have good morals and can live happily, I become hopeful in the future. I hope this leads to a permanent peace because our people are tired of war and they are thirsty for peace.
Sayed Nur, a pro-Taleban resident in the Taleban-controlled areas of Helmand’s Nawa district, Helmand
In the early morning of the first day of the reduction in violence, I started listening to the radio. I heard the news that the reduction in violence was in effect. It made me very happy. I planned my day to go to Lashkargah [the provincial capital] and meet some relatives there. I had not been able to go to those areas very safely because there would always be fighting between the government forces and the Taleban on the road leading there.
From the Taleban side on this road, they always plant bombs against the government forces. So I always avoid going to Lashkargah. But this time it was a great opportunity for me to go to Lashkargah and meet my relatives. When I got there, my relatives were very happy and said they had also enjoyed the reduction in violence, because they could go to any area they wanted without the fear of roadside bombs or fighting on the way. I also went to the desert areas where my relatives live. In the past, I could not go to those areas because there was always the fear of airstrikes or drone strikes.
The reduction in violence has significantly changed the situation in our area. For example, right now, as I am speaking to you, I see both the Taleban and the Afghan security forces in my area. The Taleban are sitting on a wall, while the security forces are sitting in their base. They are not firing at each other at all. They can see each other and they are not firing at each other. In this area where I live, the Taleban told local fighters that no one should shoot at the government security posts. If anyone opens fire on the security forces, he will be punished. I also went to some areas in Marja, where I saw both the security forces of the Afghan government and the Taleban, and they were not taking any action against each other.
Another change is that in the past, I would need to go to a government-controlled area to make a phone call to someone, but now you see that I can speak with you by telephone from this area. This is the result of the reduction in violence, where the Taleban have allowed the telephone companies to operate once again in our area.
The people in my area are very happy that there is no fighting, no sounds of gunshots and no noise of helicopters, drones or surveillance aircrafts. The people really hope that the reduction in violence will become a complete and permanent ceasefire.
There was one incident in our area on the first day of the reduction in violence, in the Qari Sidi area of Marja. Someone from the Taleban had opened fire on a security post shortly after midday. Immediately after that, the Taleban intelligence people went to that area and arrested him. They beat and questioned this person. After he told them that his commander told him to fire at the post, the intelligence people arrested that commander and imprisoned him for three days. Today as I am talking to you, he is in prison.
I was thinking that the reduction in violence would mean that there would still be a number of security incidents, but as of now I have not witnessed a single one. For example, there has not been any airstrike, no night raid, no roadside blast, no drone attack and no other security related incidents in the area where I live. More importantly, we would always hear the disturbing noise of the surveillance aircraft, but I have not heard any such sound since the reduction in violence has been put in place. I consider this as a complete ceasefire because both sides are very much committed to the reduction in violence and it is very good news for all of our people who are living in this area.
Mullah Sediq, from a Taleban-controlled area of Darqad district, Takhar
When I woke up in the morning, I heard from the radio that there is a reduction in violence in place and that there will be no fighting. I started to feel very relaxed, it felt like something very heavy was lifted from my shoulders. I then decided to go to Darqad district town with some villagers. Neither I nor other residents of my village would try to go to the district bazaar before the reduction in violence. I can say that I have seen this change.
Both the Afghan government forces and the Taleban are very calm and they are not fighting each other as in the past. In our village, the local Taleban came to a mosque, where they informed the people about the reduction in violence.
The local Taleban fighters said that their leaders have told them that anyone, particularly government people, could come to the area, and that there was no problem for people to commute between the district bazaar and the area where we are living. But the locals should inform the leaders, to stop any misunderstanding or misuse of the situation.
There are also some other effects. For example, people in the past could not phone people in some areas without phone connections, but now the phones are working there and people are calling their relatives. People are very happy about this. People are congratulating each other on the reduction in violence, and they consider this as an opportunity for a ceasefire [to come next].
When my cousin, who lives in Pakistan, heard that there was reduction in violence, he decided to come to Takhar and submit his application for a tazkera [national ID card]. He said that he did not have one, and that on his way he was not questioned by the security forces.
I never believed that the Taleban would stop the fighting. I never believed that the Taleban would not open fire on the Afghan government security forces when they see them. For the last two days, I have seen Taleban who could attack a nearby security post, but they have not. This is what I had not been expecting.
Another important thing is that yesterday some people went to the district bazaar, and the Afghan security forces did not check or question anyone. Instead, the NDS operatives were even telling people they were welcome. In the past, there would be very strict checks by the NDS and [the police]. But now, they do not bother people at all.
As I see very much reduced violence [already now], I definitely hope that this reduction in violence turns into a permanent ceasefire. I want to give another important message to the international community: that we want peace, justice and an end to brutality.
Niamat, Andar district, Ghazni
I live in a madrasa and there is always an expectation of an airstrike, drone strike or night raid, but when I heard this news I started feeling very happy. The fear that I had in regards to the possible night raid or airstrike – that fear is gone, and I am very happy.
The major change that I see in my area is that the telephone companies are working very well now. In the past, the phone companies were working only until 11 AM in the morning, but now we can call people at midnight and there is no problem. Another change is that I do not see the movement of Taleban towards security posts of government forces.
Another important change is that people are very happy to move about to different villages without the fear of night raids, drone strikes, airstrikes or a Taleban attack on government forces. The Taleban do have checkpoints in some areas but they have not attacked any government posts so far.
Initially I thought that the Taleban would not stop attacking government security posts because the Taleban did not call it a ceasefire, but they were acting towards the government forces as though it was a ceasefire between them. This means this [reduction in violence] is much more than what I was expecting.
Normally I could not go to the parts of the district where the Taleban was more active and where airstrikes or drone strikes were expected. However, today and yesterday I went to different areas in Andar district. If the reduction was not in place, I could not have done that.
Zamzama Najwa, teacher in Abul Qasem Ferdawsi high school in Kabul
The problems in Kabul are not only related to the reduction in violence by the Taleban. I am afraid of the robbers and thieves in Kabul, they do not let us live in comfort.
I am still pessimistic that this reduction in violence will turn into a permanent peace. [But] when I heard about the reduction in violence, I became happy. I listened to the news and watched TV. I have not heard about any incidents or violence. As a result of the reduction in violence, my friends could to their villages without fear.
My behaviour has changed, now after I have my breakfast, I go to work without fear. I am not afraid because there is no suicide attack or explosion.
I hope that after the reduction in violence, there is a permanent and overall ceasefire so that people can live happily and there are job opportunities for youth. So traders can be sure there is no war and then can invest, and our country will develop.
Businessman in Kandahar city
My feelings about the reduction of violence were very hopeful [when I heard the news]. I thought God would bring peace to our country. The reduction in violence has changed our city. Before this the police were disturbing people, searching them or their vehicles. However, although the number of police has increased in the city and at check posts, they do not disturb people and there are fewer searches of people at police check posts. Before the reduction in violence, every day I was either hearing from people by phone or reading on Facebook that someone was shot, abducted or disappeared in the city. But during these days [of the reduction in violence] I have not heard those things at all.
Usually I was very afraid when I was late getting home. When somebody invited me to dinner or any other party, like a wedding and other celebration, I would not dare to go and stay there late at night, but last night my friends invited me to a friends’ party. I went there and returned home at 1:00am at night. I did not feel any kind of fear returning to my home and my wife and children were also not concerned about me or calling me asking why was I late.
I was very hopeful when I heard about the reduction of violence and was thinking that it would evolve into a permanent ceasefire or to a thorough solution, but when I heard some of the audio clips of the Taleban, who were instructing their fighters to attack the Afghans, but not the foreigners, I was very disappointed.
I think the Americans want to know whether the Taleban can control the violence and whether the Taleban really control the areas in which they are claiming to have control. I hope the Taleban show them that they can control the violence. If they can keep control over the violence, I think the Americans will also accept their power and will reach a permanent solution with them.
Mullah in a village mosque, Mukhtar village in the outskirsts of Lashkargah city, Helmand
I was so happy when I heard the announcement about the reduction in violence. I thought that the Americans would now withdraw and we would have peace in the country.
The situation in our area is very much changed. Many people are [now] coming to the city. Before the reduction in violence, the police were checking people thoroughly. They were accusing some people of being Taleban. But now the search is very superficial. Even when the police have recognised some Taleban, they have let them enter the city.
People gathered in the provincial capital to celebrate the [first] day of the reduction in violence. They danced the Attan to drums. The patrols of government forces as well as their presence at check posts has increased compared to before. I personally posted [on Facebook] around thirty posts regarding the reduction in violence, peace and ceasefire. Actually, when I was checking the posts of other people and their emotional reactions, I could not control my feelings.
I am hopeful that this reduction in violence will pave the way to permanency, but looking at the games of the politicians, I am afraid we cannot reach a permanent solution.
Male NGO employee in Qalat city, Zabul province
If God is willing, it will pave the way to a permanent ceasefire, because the ones who are fighting now, will they have a chance to think about why they are fighting. Because of this reduction in violence, the ideas people have about the war could change.
The situation in Zabul has changed very much. The reduction in violence is 100 per cent in effect here. The Taleban still keep their presence in the areas where they were before, but they do not harm people. In the reduction of violence agreement, the Taleban have kept the way open [for attacks], as they are allowed to do small scale attacks on the security forces, but they have not attacked them.
My expectations have been met one hundred per cent so far. I have not heard of a single shoot, fight or other unpleasant incident from any warring side. The reduction of violence has mustered up my courage. The fear I was feeling before, I am not feeling now. I walk in the city whenever I want, something I could not do before this.
I am hopeful this will change into a permanent ceasefire and finally into a permanent peace. Because, looking at the Taleban’s behaviour, they have not harmed people [during the reduction in violence], despite the fact that they are allowed to some extent to do small scale attacks on the government forces. The other hope is that the warring sides, especially the Taleban, will think again about the fighting, and this reduction of violence will change their minds to stop fighting and be ready for peace talks with the Afghan government.
Hakim Khan, a 55-year old tribal elder, Shwak district, Paktia
I was really happy when I heard the announcement about the reduction in violence. People congratulated each other. There was Attan dancing in the city. I felt secure. I felt like I was protected from any violent attacks or incidents that usually happen in our village.
Over the past three days, Ghalgi village, where we live, has remained completely safe. We haven’t seen any security incidents. There are no clashes between Taleban and government forces, and people are feeling secure.
I went to villages that were impossible to go before the announcement. People from the villages came to the district centre without fear of being accused of being Taleban supporters. The district centre is completely safe, and the villages, too. We can go to different parts of the district without fear of being targeted by a drone attack.
We pray and we hope that the reduction of violence will turn into permanent peace and a ceasefire in our country.
Qader Khan, a school teacher in Shiwak district, Paktia
I was so happy when I heard about the reduction in violence and the announcement from the Taleban and the government. Since the announcement, there has been peace, security and stability in our district.
People can go to different villages and different parts of the district without any fear. This has a psychological effect on people’s lives. I can [now] go to different parts of the district without fear of any security incidents. There are volleyball and cricket matches where players and audiences came from different areas to the district centre to support their favourite team.
We hope that the reduction in violence opens the door for permanent peace and stability in our country.
Male journalist, Khost province
I was so happy when I heard the announcement. In our province, people came out on the streets and started dancing and celebrating the announcement. There was dancing on the street until late night. Shops and supermarkets were open until 11:00pm.
People are confident that there won’t be attacks or military operations. People go to areas that they couldn’t go before the announcement of the reduction in violence.
If there is peace and if there is no fear of security incidents, then things change automatically. Its means you feel secure, you feel protected and you feel free. As a result, you can go to any place without fearing of being targeted by government or Taleban.
We pray and we hope that the reduction in violence turns into permanent peace and stability in our country. However, there is also a fear that if the intra-Afghan talks don’t happen, there will be again fighting between government forces and Taleban.
Qadir Khan, school teacher, Baraki Barak district, Logar
I was so happy, and we celebrated the announcement. The reduction in violence changed the security situation in our district, there has been no fighting over the past three days… I hope it continues for longer than a week. I feel really happy and this can be seen in my face. When there is happiness your behaviour immediately changes. Also, I can go to any part of our district without any fear. I pray and I hope that the reduction in violence turns into long-lasting peace and stability.
Malik Mirwais, tribal elder, Baraki Barak district, Logar
I heard the announcement on the radio and I was screaming and I was crying. I was so happy. It has changed the situation in our district. There is peace and stability.
I felt free and I could go to areas that I couldn’t go to in the past. I hope it turns into permanent peace and stability. Over the course of three days, there were no reports of casualties, no reports of clashes and it is a peaceful district.
Andish, a male member of development council, Dasht-e Archi district, Kunduz
I always follow the radio news. When first I heard about the announcement I was so happy and told all my family members that there won’t be fighting for a week. My relatives came to the district centre to visit us and our family went to villages to meet our relatives. We are confident that there won’t be clashes so it is a great opportunity to go around the district and to meet people who I haven’t met for years.
[The reduction in violence] shows that both sides of the conflict are tired of fighting. Both sides have fulfilled the reduction of violence agreement in our district. There is peace and stability in Dasht-e Archi. However, it is for a short period of time. But still, if we prevent fighting for a day, it is a big achievement.
Hesmatullah, a civil society activist, Sharana, the provincial centre of Paktika province
I was screaming and shouting when I heard about the announcement. I can’t tell you my feelings, but I was hugging my family and my friends.
It has changed the situation in our province. There are no reports of casualties or fighting, so far. I went to the Afghan-Pakistan border with my friends without fear of being targeted. I went to areas that I never expected to be able to go to.
I hope for a permanent peace and stability. There are ongoing gatherings in the province in support of peace. Religious scholars, civil society and women’s rights activists organised gatherings announcing their support for a ceasefire and long-lasting peace.
Male medical doctor, Zurmat district, Paktia
I feel happiness, and feel this not only for myself but also for my people. In Zurmat district centre people celebrated the announcement and they danced on the street and proclaimed their support for the ceasefire and reduction in violence. They also called on both sides to end the violence.
People feel secure, comfortable and they go around the city, and there is a confident environment in the province. There are no reports of clashes.
I expected a ceasefire like the one in 2018. However, this time neither the government officials nor the Taleban are interested in going to areas that are controlled by their enemies. This time people are only secure in their [own] areas, but they can’t go to areas that are controlled by the Taleban because of fear that they might be target by them.
I feel secure because there are no drone attacks or operations by the Taleban. We really desire for a ceasefire and permanent peace in our district. Of course, if there is no fighting even for a second it is valuable to us.
We hope that this opens the door for long-lasting peace and stability. We hope that we no longer hear about bombings and fighting in the future.
Abdul Rahim Faqirpur, 55 years old, school principle in Jaghatu district, Ghazni
Our area is under the control of the Taleban. Only in one place, which is called Mohmand, is there a security post of the ANA. Fortunately, since the reduction in violence [was announced], there have been no incidents. Both sides are quiet. they have not attacked each other. Soldiers from the ANA go among the people without arms.
I went to the Taleban area in Khogyani together with four other people in order to solve a problem. I can easily go to areas where the Taleban are now. Other people do the same thing. They are doing business and trades with other people in the Taleban area… The Taleban who I met also said they hoped this turns to a peaceful situation and end to the war.
However, I am concerned about fighting after the withdrawal of foreigners… [and] I am concerned about the problems between the politicians inside the government and between the two candidates…if they do not agree, we will go into crisis.
Malik Kamin, 62 year old tribal elder, Achin district, Nangrahar
We have not heard gunfire from either the government, nor the Taleban. Both sides have refrained from attacking each other. People in our area are happy. Mobile networks work properly now. I can call my brothers and sons who work in other provinces or who are in the military service. I can call them any time.
I am happy that at least for a few days, there has been no fighting and bloodshed. Afghans have not lost blood for a few days at least. Now, l can live without fear and walk freely and safely. I am hopeful that this reduction of violence turns into a ceasefire and then permanent peace.
Malik Mahmud, 65 years old, tribal elder, Achin district, Nangrahar
I was so happy to hear about the reduction in violence, I went home to my children, who are in grade six and seven at school, and I told them about it, they became happy too.
Our area has been calm for the last two or three months. There have been no incidents. Due to the reduction of violence, the situation has become even better. People are not afraid anymore as they can walk everywhere during the night. There has been no gun fire from either the Taleban, nor the government. The government and the Taleban have not attacked each other. I go to places where I could not go before.
I think it is a good sign for bringing an end to war in Afghanistan. Even for one day, if there is no gun fire and no Afghan is killed, I am happy. It is in the interest of our nation.
There is hope that this reduction of violence turns into a ceasefire and then to a permanent peace. However, I am concerned that if the foreigners leave Afghanistan, previous incidents such as those when the Soviets left Afghanistan would be repeated. I am concerned that the neighbouring countries will interfere in our affairs more when the foreigners leave. My major concern is that the civil war happens again and the country goes into another crisis. I have seen other people in their homes, shops and also in the mosques. They are very hopeful because of this reduction of violence, and they say that the enmity in Afghanistan should be ended.
Breshna Sherzoi, female activist, Asadabad, Kunar
There has been war for the last 40 years and as result everyone is tired of it.
So when I heard about the reduction of violence, not only myself, but also my children became happy. I can [now] go to places where there are Taleban. I went to my workplace and I also visited relatives.
If the period for reduction of violence is extended, then I might be satisfied. The situation has changed very little… because there are other insurgent groups [in Kunar], such as Daesh. Therefore, the reduction of violence is not remarkable. If there had been only the Taleban, the change would have been more significant.
I do hope it turns to a ceasefire and then to a permanent peace, but I do not really believe it, because when Hekmatyar came, we expected and hoped that the fighting would decrease, but it did not. I hope this time it is different.
Farmer (43) from Jalrez district, Maidan Wardak
I heard about the US and Taleban agreement on a reduction in violence from the Afghan media. In the beginning I had some doubts about its implementation, but at the same time I was happy about the notion.
On the first night of the reduction in violence period, drones were flying above Jalrez district. This created concerns and rumours that there might be night raids, the rumour was that the drones were monitoring the situation [in preparation]. The flights stopped after the second night. Locals say the Taleban here claim they reported it to their leaders (I don’t know if to the Doha office or to another office), and the Taleban leaders talked about this with the US representatives and asked them to stop flying drones over the district.
Not even a single shot has been fired since the start of the reduction in violence period. Everything is normal and quiet. Everyone is happy. I am happy if the violence can be stopped even for a second or an hour. Tawakal ba khuda (trusting in God’s plan), this reduction in violence would be transition to a permanent ceasefire and then to a durable peace in the country. However, the political disputes between the two presidential teams make the locals worry. I hope they smoothly solve their disputes soon. The country and the nation are not able to face a new tragedy.
The calm is more than I had expected, I did not believe it could be like this. These days are the season for pruning trees. Many groups of four to five people came to Jalrez from Narkh district as contractors. They work day and night. They sleep in the mosques. In the previous years, no one was able to stay in a mosque or work outside during the night. There was always a chance of a night raid. Whoever stayed in mosques was arrested by the national security forces, and those who were working during the night in their orchards were targeted either by the Taleban fighters or local Afghan military forces. The orchard-contractors told me that they are enjoying their work and stay in Jalrez these days.
One difference between the reduction in violence and the previous three-day ceasefire [in June 2018], is that during the ceasefire, members of the Taleban or the government, military and civil employees were able to visit their families who were living in the territory of their opponents, but this time they cannot. Everyone stays in their own territory.
Sharifullah Hotak (35), member of Maidan Wardak provincial council, Pashtun originally from Jalrez
Since the reduction in violence week started, the entire province has been quiet. The only incident happened last night [of 24-25 February], in Narkh district. Unknown people blew up a bridge. No one has claimed responsibility yet. I should mention that the province was quiet for the two last months. Therefore, I cannot say that the reduction in violence has had any effect on the number of incidents. The Taleban has left the province due to snow and cold weather.
Nevertheless, the people I met were happy. But I personally had doubts about a smooth reduction in violence from the beginning, as I know the Taleban’s commanders are not united. Winter is not a fighting season; therefore, I cannot claim that the quietness is due to the reduction in violence. If the reduction in violence was planned during the fighting season, then the situation would not be as quiet as now. From the beginning of the reduction in violence period, the fighters of the warring sides have not entered into the territory of the other in Wardak. I cannot believe that if they crossed the borders into each other’s area that there would not be clashes between them.
I used the opportunity and visited three villages of Jalrez district, close to the provincial capital, and talked with the locals, including the elders in mosques. This was my first visit in the last three years since the Taleban either took control of those villages or expanded its influence over them.
I hope that the reduction in violence continues and transitions to a permanent ceasefire, but this really depends on the intra-Afghan negotiations. It is really difficult to say how the negotiations will go.
Edited by Christian Bleuer, Thomas Ruttig and Rachel Reid.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020