KABUL - Afghans are wary of peace talks with Taliban militants, even as the country's president expressed hope that U.S.-led negotiations could successfully end the long-running civil war.
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said Monday there had been “agreements in principle” toward a framework for peace with the Taliban. The Islamic militant group now controls almost half of Afghanistan and carries out attacks on an almost daily basis, mainly targeting security forces and government officials.
Nawid, a 21-year old student, said that after so many years of violence, “peace will be meaningless.” Nawid lost his brother and was himself wounded in a deadly Taliban suicide attack in the capital, Kabul, earlier this month. Four people were killed and 113 others were wounded in the attack, according to security officials.
Khalilzad has held several rounds of negotiations with the Taliban in recent months. The Taliban refuse to meet directly with the Afghan government, which they view as a U.S. puppet.
Faridoon Khwazoon, a deputy spokesman to Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said Khalilzad is briefing the government on all the developments in the talks.
“Right now peace talks are going on with full intensity,” said Khwazoon. “We are getting closer to the peace talks and we hope to witness direct peace talks between armed Taliban and the government.”
President Ashraf Ghani, in a televised address Monday, sought to reassure Afghans that no deals would be made without Kabul's awareness and full participation.
“Our commitment is to provide peace and to prevent any possible disaster,” Ghani said. “There are values that are not disputable, such as national unity, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
That Taliban ruled Afghanistan under a harsh form of Islamic law from 1996 until the U.S.-led invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Women were largely confined to their homes and religious minorities were persecuted.
Afghan analyst Shadi Khan Saif says rural Afghans, many of whom have been living under Taliban rule for years, “simply want peace.” In urban areas, by contrast, “Afghans are more concerned about the preservation of their rights and their liberties.”
In Kabul, there are many who want peace but remain skeptical of the peace process' framework. Sardar Mohammad, a shopkeeper, said a “peace agreement between America and the Taliban cannot be beneficial” so long as Afghanistan's people are not represented in talks.