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Afghan war: What some local officials are willing to do for peace

Some local Afghan officials are hoping to end the decade-long Afghan war by negotiating with the Taliban – province by province.

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“With this situation here, nobody wants to invest in Logar. People are losing both money and their lives,” says Mohammad Kasim, who runs an electronics repair shop in Pul-i-Alam. “I don’t feel safe in my own house.”

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By bringing militants to the table, local officials hope to stop the fighting province by province.

“In my opinion, the one and only way for long-term peace is to sit for negotiations and to listen to the Taliban commanders and accept some of their wants and requests,” says Wahidullah Arghushi, deputy police chief for Logar, adding that he feels this way despite his belief that security forces are now making progress against militants in the area. “If negotiations don’t take place than the situation will remain like this and the fighting will continue, and it will not have any results.”

Some Afghan government officials, however, stress that such an effort won’t be easy. Chief among their concerns is that local efforts like those in Logar expend too much effort for too little in return.

“Pursuing peace through these options is not successful. We’ve always suggested that we should talk to the leadership and those who have command positions in the Taliban, but some others are saying we should start with ordinary Taliban members,” says Mr. Hotec. “This is hard to do because it takes a lot of effort to go after a single Taliban and convince him to come back to the government. One day he will promise to meet and the next day they will disappear, so it turns into a complicated issue.”

Even communicating with high-level insurgents from the Taliban and other groups has proven problematic, as was demonstrated last winter when a Pakistani shopkeeper duped NATO into believing he was a key Taliban leader.

Some residents of Logar also worry that their government’s efforts will be met with little success, as traditional negotiations here require a third party mediator, not just both sides – the government and the insurgency – directly talking to one another.

Government officials in Logar, however, insist that they can make peace in their province despite the central government’s struggles talking to the Taliban.

“If the government continues to try to stand against the Taliban with force, this is the truth that we know: The Taliban has control of 70 percent of the provinces in Afghanistan, so this not the way to bring peace,” says Abdul Wali Wakil, head of the Logar Provincial Council. “We hope that we will find a way to make peace in Logar this winter.”

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