A week-long, partial truce yesterday went into effect across Afghanistan, with jubilant civilians celebrating in the streets to mark a potentially historic turning point in the war, even as isolated attacks threatened to undermine the process.
The Taliban, US and Afghan forces have all agreed to a so-called “reduction in violence,” which, if it holds, would be only the second lull in fighting since 2001.
“It is the first morning that I go out without the fear of being killed by a bomb or suicide bomber. I hope it continues forever,” Kabul taxi driver Habib Ullah said, while in other parts of the country people danced in the streets.
However, in northern Balkh Province, Taliban fighters attacked a district headquarters near the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing two Afghan soldiers, a local official told reporters.
The attack came after midnight, when the partial truce had already kicked in. There were also reports of a separate incident in central Uruzgan Province.
General Scott Miller, who leads US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that Western forces would continually monitor the “reduction in violence.”
“The objective here is that we reduce violence for Afghanistan and that it doesn’t spike,” Miller told reporters, adding that he was confident of the Taliban’s overall commitment to the process.
The partial truce is expected to set the conditions for Washington and the insurgents to sign a deal that could, ultimately, pull US troops out after more than 18 years and launch war-weary Afghanistan into an uncertain future.
A successful week would show that the Taliban can control its forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of any deal, which both the US and the insurgents have said could be done on Saturday next week in Doha.
It also gives a much-needed respite to civilians, who have long borne the brunt of the bloody war.
The UN’s Afghanistan mission yesterday said that more than 10,000 people had been killed or wounded in the war last year alone.
In southern Kandahar, considered the Taliban heartland, and eastern Nangarhar Province, dozens of Afghans were seen dancing the attan — a traditional Pashtun dance — in the streets in celebration overnight.
Residents in Nangarhar’s capital, Jalalabad, also celebrated by holding an impromptu bicycle race.
Details of how exactly the reduction in violence will work have remained scant.
The US has said that there is an “understanding” for a “significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” while Afghan security forces are to remain “on active defense status” during the week.
“The Taliban must demonstrate their commitment to a meaningful reduction in violence,” US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on Twitter. “Should the Taliban reject the path of peace, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our Afghan partners.”
In Kandahar, one insurgent told reporters that he had received orders to stand down — but another said that he had only been ordered to refrain from attacking major cities and highways.
Any truce comes fraught with danger, and analysts have said that the attempt to stem Afghanistan’s bloodshed is laced with complications and could fail at any time.
TWEET CONFIRMED: The US’ Morgan Ortagus backed up Taiwan, saying China only admitted that human-to-human transmission was possible as late as Jan. 20 Taiwan warned the WHO and China about possible human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus at the end of last year, but the global health body did not make it public, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. Department of International Organizations Director-General Bob Chen (陳龍錦) made the remark at a news briefing in Taipei, when asked about statements made by US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus. “Dec. 31— that’s the same day Taiwan first tried to warn WHO of human-human transmission. Chinese authorities meanwhile silenced doctors and refused to admit human-human transmission until Jan. 20, with catastrophic consequences,” Ortagus wrote on
ON THE LOOKOUT: A Lockheed EP-3 reconnaissance plane was yesterday seen flying southwest of Kaohsiung, according to Twitter account ‘Aircraft Spots’ A Twitter account that tracks military aircraft movements has indicated an increase in US military activity near Taiwan, coinciding with an increase in Chinese military activity in the area. Planes from the US Seventh Fleet have been sighted frequently above the South China Sea in the past several days, and a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane was seen flying close to Taiwanese airspace southwest of Kaohsiung yesterday, according to posts by the Twitter account Aircraft Spots. The EP-3 was seen circling above the same area, Aircraft Spots said, adding that other planes from the fleet were seen in the past few days
A Taipei resident who had breached his home quarantine order was found on Tuesday night in an Internet cafe and fined NT$1 million (US$32,976), Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said yesterday, as the Taipei City Government announced a short-term COVID-19 relief plan. Huang on Tuesday afternoon publicized the name of the man, Chen Tse (陳冊), who on Saturday last week returned from Beijing and was ordered to undergo 14-day home quarantine. However, city monitoring officials were unable to contact him by mobile phone or at his home. Chen was found by police at an Internet cafe on Nanyang Street, Huang said
ACCLIMATION: Chen Shih-chung said that only ‘soft’ policies have been carried out so far, but ‘hard’ measures would be implemented if the coronavirus situation worsens The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday recommended that indoor events of more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 people should be canceled, as 19 new imported cases of COVID-19 were announced, bringing the total number in Taiwan to 235. “The center recommends that from now, indoor events of more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 people should be suspended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 community transmission,” said Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), deputy head of the center. Event organizers should refer to six indicators listed in the response guidelines