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Afghan peace council opens as Afghans assess nine years of war

Nine years after US-led airstrikes on Afghanistan began, President Karzai on Thursday inaugurated a new peace council that is tasked with reconciling with the Taliban and other insurgents. Kabul residents say they see no end in sight to the war.

By Correspondent / October 7, 2010

Members of the peace council listen to Afghan President Hamid Karzai speak during an inaugural meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on October 7. Karzai inaugurated a peace council appointed to broker peace with the Taliban and other insurgents fighting for nine years against his administration.

Shah Marai/AFP Photo/Newscom

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Kabul

Nine years ago today, just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States led an aerial bombardment on Afghanistan, beginning the longest war in US history and unleashing events that would topple a regime and change the direction of the nation.

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But this week, even as the Karzai government began secret talks with the Taliban and other antigovernment forces, after two presidential elections and billions of US investment in fighting and reconstruction, most Afghans see no end to the war. Amid ongoing violence, it remains difficult for most people here to reconcile what this anniversary means for their country.

“The Afghan civilians used to think of this anniversary as a day that they got their freedom from a cruel government. But day by day, as the Taliban has gotten more control in the country, the people have stopped believing that,” says Mohammad Saber Fahim, an Afghan journalist.

Initially happy about the bombardment

Like most Afghans, Abdul Wasy still remembers where he was when he heard that the Americans had started bombing his country nine years ago. He was nine years old, and rather than get the news over the radio, he found out about the strikes when two bombs landed close enough to his home that, he says, they shook the earth.

When he realized he would be safe, he says that he and his family were elated. “We thought that we were released from the dark regime of the Taliban,” he says.

But now, Mr. Wasy says, things aren’t so black and white. “In the Taliban regime, it was better. We were safe. Now, every day, you hear on the news about innocent people getting killed in attacks. … In nine years, more than 40 countries could not bring security. And now we are all feeling hopeless.”

Taliban gone in three months

President George W. Bush ordered airstrikes on Afghanistan a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. It was billed as America’s first retaliatory move after 9/11 and the stated aim was to find Osama bin Laden and stop Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from using the country as a haven.

Within three months, the US had removed the Taliban regime and the International Security Assistance Force, composed of more than 40 nations, was established to restore peace and secure the nation.

While the US and international forces continued to pursue Al Qaeda, they also turned their efforts to combating antigovernment forces, training Afghan forces, and engaging in reconstruction projects. Violence remained relatively low until mid-2006, when the Taliban began to make a resurgence. Now Afghanistan is experiencing record levels of violence, and though the Taliban and other insurgent groups have reportedly started talks with the government, most analysts agree that a comprehensive peace agreement will take time.

Among the challenges facing those trying to make peace, many question if those appointed by President Hamid Karzai to be part of the High Peace Council, a group that held its inaugural meeting Thursday separately from secret peace talks, are capable of brokering a deal with antigovernment forces.

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