On May 23, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire along with the Afghan government that took effect on Sunday during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. This response was a promising move by the Taliban. This decision was warmly welcomed by the Afghan government, and, on the following day, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani called for a special meeting with the top government officials to discuss the release of around 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of good will in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is one of the biggest Muslim holidays. Everyone normally visits family members and friends after the month of fasting. Unfortunately, this year was different due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Afghan government called on all citizens to stay home during the three-day holiday in order to stop the virus from spreading.
While the nation was home for the holiday, the government’s top officials were at work. The Afghan government initiated the process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners, in accordance with President Ghani’s order. The Afghan government’s intention was to respond positively to the Taliban’s calling of the ceasefire in an effort to further the peace process.
On the third day of Eid, the Afghan government released about 900 Taliban prisoners - 525 prisoners from Bagram, 328 from Pul-e-Charkhi and about 47 prisoners from different locations around the country. And the release of the remaining prisoners is proceeding.
The release built trust between both sides that resulted in a significant reduction in violence across the country. Although there were some skirmishes, none were at the level that the country has recently seen.
While Afghans still face the threat of the coronavirus, at least the fear of security was somewhat reduced.
Furthermore, the political agreement between President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was a major step towards consolidating a national consensus and puts us back on track in our joint effort with the United States--as our main strategic partner--for peace and stability.
On the first day of Eid, usually the President and the National Security Adviser--or any top security official--will visit troops to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice, and to wish them a happy Eid. This time, National Security Adviser Dr. Hamdullah Mohib visited a unit of Kabul Police (Kabul Quick Reaction Forces).
The police on duty were alert and had high morale. Dr. Mohib went around the city visiting the elders, youth, and children – and everyone felt a great relief and happiness and expressed a wish for lasting peace in Afghanistan. During his walk, he met one Afghan soldier standing guard on the street and thanked him for his service. The soldier responded with gratitude and said that although he misses his family, he had chosen to protect his countrymen during the holidays.
On the last day of Eid, Dr. Mohib travelled to the city of Gardez, the capital of the southeastern province of Paktia, to meet with the people. I accompanied him during this trip. Dr. Mohib chaired a security meeting (security shura) upon his arrival and then visited the elders from the different tribes and met with the government and non-government officials and scholars, patiently listening to them. Everyone's greatest concern and first priority was bringing peace to the country and extending the ceasefire and security. Peace is the ultimate need for all Afghans around the country.
Paktia is a very complicated zone. Nowadays the security is adequate, highways are open to the military and public transportation, and there is good coordination among the ANDSF. Police play a crucial role in cities like Gardez and in the rural areas. Everyday, policemen and women pay a high cost to protect people. They arrest criminals and destroy their networks and bring them to justice. However, there are still security challenges because there is still a threat from the Haqqani network, a wing of the Taliban.
It is worth mentioning that the Afghan security forces have stood tall during trying times over the years, giving Afghan people the assurance that they have grown into a more capable, professional force that can defend their country on their own.
The announcement of the three-day ceasefire by the Taliban was welcomed by the Paktia people and people all around the country. The people of Paktia called on the Taliban and Afghan government to extend the ceasefire agreement. There was a huge gathering of people who came from different places and districts willing to meet and share their thoughts with the Afghan National Security Adviser. Among them was a 90-year-old man who said that the three days of peace felt like three years of peace and security. Everyone was overjoyed and wanted an extension and an end to violence.
On these official visits during Eid, I felt proud as an Afghan and optimistic that change is unavoidable.
More than ever, peace is essential, especially as the pandemic grips the country.
It is the desire of all Afghans.
BG. Abdul Moqim Abdulrahimzai is a graduate of Royal College of Defense Studies (RCDS)- UK. Currently he is director general of the secretariat at the Office of the National Security Council Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and former director general of Plan and Operations at the Ministry of Interior Affairs of Afghanistan. @AbMoqim
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