War's a farce in Afghan truce
village By Maiwand Safi
KAPISA PROVINCE - Alasay district in this
province northeast of the Afghan capital Kabul, is
the scene of an unusual arrangement where local
government officials and the Taliban turn a blind
eye to one another.
neither side can defeat the other, the two have
effectively decided to coexist as peaceably as
conditions will allow.
and government policemen, both armed, wander
around the open-air market in the district center
without bothering one another. They have even been
known to attend each other's weddings and
To ease relations further and
remove any embarrassment, a
decision was taken recently
to have the insurgents do their shopping in the
morning and the security forces theirs in the
"It's better this way," market
stallholder Reza told the Institute for War and
Peace Reporting (IWPR), "because we used to be
scared that they'd start shooting at each other.
It's a good thing they're now coming separately at
A local policeman, who
asked to remain anonymous, commutes to the
district center every day from his home village,
where the Taliban are in full control, but they
never give him any trouble despite the arms and
equipment he carries with him.
"I run into
the Taliban along the way, and we say hello.
Sometimes we joke about our jobs. Since we're all
local people, they don't bother us and we don't
bother them. We have an informal arrangement."
Mirzaman Mangarai, the police chief for
Alasay district, said the non-aggression pact was
a tacit recognition that neither side could win
"I've got 20
soldiers and 20 [uniformed police] officers," he
said "We want to enforce the law, but we don't
have the capacity to do so. Equally, the Taliban
aren't capable of removing us. In reality, we
don't want each other around, since we represent
two different systems."
The pact is the
work of informal leaders in Alasay, a mountainous
valley where local community elders forged a
working agreement with the insurgents some years
ago; this has more or less held ever since.
Since the elders also influence the
appointment of the district administration head
and police chief, these officials also become part
of the deal and effectively sign up to the
non-aggression pact. The local government
chief, Mullah Mohammad, said the arrangement was
informal, with nothing on paper. He also indicated
that his administration was following the central
government's policy of encouraging insurgents to
"The armed opposition members
stay a few meters away from Alasay market, though
they do come in to buy things sometimes. We don't
fight one another," he said. "We have now started
an effort, in conjunction with tribal elders and
the peace process, to persuade them to lay down
their weapons and come over to the government."
Other interviewees appeared less committed
to winning over the Taliban, and suggested they
were perfectly happy with a live-and-let-live
arrangement that excluded political influence from
"We get killed in the name of the
police, the army and the Taliban because we are
persuaded to do so by others," a village chief,
who did not want to be named, said. "If a
policeman, a soldier or a Taliban member is
killed, everyone in Afghanistan suffers. We, the
elders of Alasai district, have made a decision
that means that everyone in our area now lives in
The village leader said the
Taliban would not attack members of the Afghan
National Army, ANA, or Afghan National Police,
unless the security forces were directed by
international troops to launch an offensive
The International Security
Force for Afghanistan, ISAF, has conducted a
number of operations to clear insurgents from
Alasay over the years, but without establishing
total control over the area. ISAF and the ANA have
set up outposts and bases and established a "line
of consolidation" above Alasay's district center.
Further north and east, rugged, steeply rising
mountainous terrain has made it hard for the
security forces to drive out the insurgents, let
alone hold ground over the longer term - a view
expressed not only by local Afghans interviewed by
IWPR, but also in a US military cable released by
IWPR spoke to an ANA soldier
deployed in the area who appeared a reluctant
participant in the counter-insurgency effort in
which he was supposed to be involved.
Saying that Afghanistan's past and present
conflicts had been fought on behalf of other
countries, he said, "The Taliban are our brothers,
too. They have certain demands, and they should be
listened to. They aren't crazy; they aren't
fighting for nothing."
He added, "I hope
the Taliban and government forces reach agreements
like this in all areas, so that the true enemies
of this country are left on their own."
Taliban official who did not want to be named said
that while the war on international forces would
continue until they were driven out of
Afghanistan, the insurgents would observe the
truce in Alasay except if they were attacked.
"We have decided not to touch government
forces because of our ethnic ties, out of respect
to the tribal elders and to Islam, and because we
are all Afghans and Muslims. But if they attack us
on the orders of the foreign forces, we will
attack and kill them."
interviewees on the government side, he drew a
clear distinction between local and national
politics. "This agreement by the Taliban does not
mean we accept the corrupt system or the
international murderers. All it means is that the
Taliban don't want to kill their fellow-Afghans."
For Afghan defense and political analysts,
the Alasay peace deal presents something of a
conundrum - does it offer a model for peace more
broadly, or is it just a stalemate with no wider
Retired General Hai
Sulaimankhel is adamant that Alasay reflects the
failure of governance and rule of law.
"This situation shows up the government's
weakness. It cannot enforce the law there," he
said. "People go to the opposition with their
problems. The reality is that there are two
governments, and that is a great achievement for
The general added that
the Taliban had concluded a local peace deal
purely for their own convenience, but that would
not stop them going on the offensive when it
Another analyst, Abdul Ghafur
Liwal, who heads the Afghanistan Regional Studies
Center, disagreed, arguing that any way of ending
the bloodshed had to be a good thing.
"When the guns fall silent, rationality
and logic come into play," he said. "I'm sure this
informal agreement is going to prompt other areas
into realizing that war is not a good solution."
Unlike General Sulaimankhel, Liwal argued
that a prolonged truce must benefit the government
because it would allowed it to get on with its job
Maiwand Safi is an
IWPR-trained reporter in Kapisa province.