Afghans React To Weeklong Partial Truce — A Rare Peaceful Moment
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Today is Day Five of a weeklong reduction in violence in Afghanistan. The partial truce is meant to create goodwill, a prelude to a deal between the U.S. and the Taliban. This week is also a chance for Afghans to enjoy the rarest of things; a peaceful day in a country battered by decades of war. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hadaya Gul is 5, and it's her first time at this amusement park in Kabul. She's wearing a headband that's as sparkly as her mood. She's too excited to eat her ice cream, so she shoves it in her mother's hand so she can play on a swing. Her father, Mohammad Shafiq says he wants his daughter to have some fun.
MOHAMMAD SHAFIQ: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It's the first time that he's here.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's been a year that she's been asking for this, but we were scared, really, that we couldn't go to places - crowded places. What if the enemy attack? And this reduction in violence is the reason right now that we are freely coming here.
HADID: That reduction in violence is an agreement between the United States, the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces to scale back their attacks for seven days. This is the longest truce, partial or otherwise, that's been held in nearly two decades. Near the Ferris wheel, Shukriya, who only goes by one name, sits with her four grandchildren. They're out for a day's fun because today, she says, they don't have to worry about suicide bombings.
SHUKRIYA: (Non-English language spoken).
HADID: When we ask her what she thinks of the truce, she bursts into tears. She says her son was killed 10 years ago. She continues to cry even as kids scream in delight around her.
About an hour outside of Kabul, the mayor of a town called Maidan Shahr says she's watching this partial truce carefully. Her name is Zarifa Ghafari. We spoke by phone.
ZARIFA GHAFARI: When it comes to the public, they are happy for this. They are all in shops and streets. At least, for a few days and nights, people could enjoy peaceful life while they're out.
HADID: But Ghafari says there's been sporadic attacks. They just haven't risen to the level of violating this partial truce. Most recently, there was a small bomb blast in Kabul. Nine people were injured. Ghafari worries that the spotty violence is a bad sign, and there are other worrying signs ahead. American and Taliban officials expect to sign a deal on Saturday that would ultimately see the withdrawal of most American forces from Afghanistan. Soon after the deal is signed, a team led by President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban are meant to start talks on a political settlement. Those talks are meant to begin in early March, but that's looking unlikely. They haven't agreed on a location. Afghan politicians are divided, and President Ghani hasn't announced who will be on his team.
HADID: But for now, many Afghans are focused on this lull, and they're trying to enjoy this one quiet week.
Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Kabul.
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