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.
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“There are only few [individuals on the council] that represent the voice of the Afghan people, but those cannot thaw the ice between the Taliban and the Afghan government,” says Khalil Nouri, cofounder of New World Strategies Coalition Inc., an Afghanistan think tank based in Fremont, Calif., that researches nonmilitary solutions.Skip to next paragraph
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Candace Rondeaux, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan, is also skeptical. “It is unclear which elements of the insurgency would be welcome at the table," she says, '' [and] it is not entirely clear that those from the ISAF side of the table who would be in a position to bargain fully understand the demands of the insurgency and are prepared to deal with those demands or that they have anything to offer in exchange.”
A phone call: 'it's safe to come home'
When he was 11 years old, living as a refugee in Peshawar, Pakistan, Mohammed Zaki’s aunt called his mother from Kabul to tell her that the Americans had started bombing the Taliban and soon it would be safe for him to return to Afghanistan. Three months later, his family was back in their homeland.
“I was very happy when I heard about the Americans bombing Afghanistan, because I thought they would destroy the Taliban and I could go back to my land,” says Mr. Zaki, a furniture-maker. “Now the situation has changed. We were safe in Pakistan, but now we don’t know if a suicide bomber will blow himself up at any moment, and Pakistan has gotten worse so we can’t go back there, either.”
Many Afghans who remember the initial excitement of the American and international forces' attacks on the Taliban, say they also remember just as vividly the shift in their support of the US.
“We were happy that they destroyed the Taliban, but we got angry when they started killing civilians,” says Hossin Ali Karimi, a social worker at an international nongovernmental organization in Kabul, echoing a common sentiment among Afghans who have grown disenchanted with the presence of foreign forces.
Despite his frustrations with foreign troops, however, he says that if they leave, he worries that the Taliban will return to power.
For Abdul Shakur, who has spent most of his adult life battling the Taliban, first with the Northern Alliance and now as an officer with the Afghan Army, his hope was that the American bombardment would bring an end to war in his country. Stationed in Parwan, north of Kabul, nine years ago, he watched bombs fall on Taliban trenches. Only five years earlier, he’d been shot in the neck during a battle with the Taliban.
“I was very excited that the Taliban were being killed by the bombing,” he says. Today, he says he worries that the Taliban is even stronger than it was before. “Now I am happier than I was during the Taliban time, but there are still problems.”