After nearly two decades of conflict that has ravaged Afghanistan's impoverished population, the United States and the Taliban signed a historic accord on Saturday that Washington hopes will mark the beginning of the end of its longest war.
Following are some reactions:
US President Donald Trump, in a statement: “We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home.”
White House, in a statement: “Our Nation is taking a responsible approach to ending this crisis and will be watching the Taliban closely to ensure compliance.
“President Trump promised to bring our troops home from overseas and is following through on that promise.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at a press conference in Kabul: “All the materials of the ... deal are based on condition, it depends on the Taliban's commitment to the peace deal.
“There are several points in the deal [that] need consideration which can be discussed in the talks with the Taliban. Our negotiating team, under the framework of the Afghan government, will be inclusive.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a tweet: “We welcome the Doha Accord signed between US & the Taliban. This is the start of a peace & reconciliation process to end decades of war & suffering of the Afghan people. I have always maintained that a [political] solution, no matter how complex, is the only meaningful path to peace.
“Now all stakeholders have to ensure that spoilers are kept at bay. My prayers for peace for the Afghan people who have suffered 4 decades of bloodshed. Pakistan is committed to playing its role in ensuring the agreement holds & succeeds in bringing peace to Afghanistan.”
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in a statement: “The United Nations welcomes the commitment expressed by the parties to intra-Afghan negotiations; and urges them to move ahead expeditiously with their preparations to start the negotiations, including through forming a truly representative negotiation team.”
Nato, in a statement: “Recent progress on peace has ushered in a reduction of violence and paved the way for intra-Afghan negotiations between a fully inclusive Afghan national team and the Taliban to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. We call on the Taliban to embrace this opportunity for peace.”
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in a statement: “I am very suspect of the Taliban ever accepting the Afghan constitution and honouring the rights of religious minorities and women. Time will tell if reconciliation in Afghanistan can be accomplished with honour and security, but after more than 18 years of war, it is time to try.”
Michael Kugelman, Asia Programme deputy director, Wilson Centre: “The US-Taliban deal is a major achievement, given how long and fraught the negotiations were. But as tough as it was to get to the finish line, the hardest work is yet to come. An intra-Afghan dialogue will be even more complex and take much more time.”
Kate Clark, co-director, Afghanistan Analysts Network: “This is not yet a peace deal it's a withdrawal deal.
“You can't help hoping for something like a momentum being created by this reduction in violence but it didn't happen after the Eid ceasefire (in 2018).
“There are many hopes and many fears and many unknowns. Is the Taliban acting in good faith in terms of wanting to seriously negotiate a political settlement to the war with power sharing? Do they see the Afghan government and other Afghans as equals as negotiating partners? Because they haven't done so far. Will the Kabul side be able to get together a negotiating team and a coherent line? What does a US troop withdrawal mean?”
Esmat, 24, Helmand province: “I lost a leg in the clashes between the Taliban and security forces. My father was a tribal elder and six years ago when he was travelling with my 10-year-old brother the Taliban attacked them. Both of them were killed. I listen to the radio every day to find out how far the peace talks have progressed. I support this process and pray daily that the war will end and that peace comes to my country. I really hate the war.”
Zarmina, 27, Tehsang, Ghazni province: “It was midnight when clashes between the Taliban and security forces began. I didn't know if it was a bomb or a rocket that hit my house. My husband and three daughters were killed. I saw my husband's head blown off. Two of my daughters are alive but all of us suffer from mental problems now. Yes, I am optimistic about peace talks. [...] I do not know if peace will be achieved, but it is enough to just end the war.”
Wahida, 19, of Nadir Khil village, Nangarhar province, who lost 12 members of her family in an air strike: “I lost two brothers, eight sisters, and my parents. I was also seriously injured and not able to walk anymore. Can I forget that incident? When your family dies in front of your eyes and you hear their painful noises and are not able to help them, can you imagine how it feels? If peace comes and the agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government is done, it will not change my life and bring me back my loved ones. But yes this will change other people's lives. They will not lose their loved ones and this matters a lot.”
Hujat Ezat, 22, of Kabul city, who lost his brother in an ambulance bomb in Kabul in 2018: “My brother Ahmad was 24 years old and it was his last year of university. He was going to the university when the explosion took place. We found only one of his feet. We were waiting for spring to celebrate his wedding, but instead of the wedding we held his funeral ... Our pain will not be cured by peace, but if peace comes at least the rest of the people will not lose their loved ones.”
Header image: (L to R) US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar shake hands after signing a peace agreement during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29. — AFP