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August 10, 2019

Afghans prepare for Eid, hope for peace


August 10, 2019

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: At a bustling outdoor market in the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad, farmers tend to long-haired goats and customers choose an animal to slaughter for the upcoming Islamic festival of Eid ul-Azha.

But a key question looms over preparations: is peace about to come to Afghanistan, or will four decades of war continue unabated? “We are thirsty for peace in Afghanistan. Every day, large numbers of our people are getting killed,” local resident Sayed Jan said. “We are celebrating Eid with sad news.”

Like many Afghans, Jan remembers well a short ceasefire between Taliban and Afghan forces during last year’s Eid al-Fitr, another key Muslim festival, when the wartime foes put down guns and exchanged greetings.

This year, the United States and the Taliban are widely believed to be in the final stretch of a push for a deal that would see America quit Afghanistan in return for various Taliban guarantees. However, even as the negotiations have appeared to progress, the battlefield and civilian toll has continued to climb, with July the deadliest month for more than two years, and it remains unclear when a ceasefire might come.

A much-anticipated Eid greeting from the Taliban’s top leader Haibatullah Akhundzada on Thursday made no mention of the truce that many Afghans long for. “The Taliban should sit with the Afghan government for a peace agreement and they should announce a ceasefire during Eid,” said Hamim Sadiq, another local resident.

“The Afghan people should celebrate Eid in peace. We have lost everything during more than 40 years of war.” Jalalabad is one part of Afghanistan that has suffered deeply. Aside from Taliban fighting, the Islamic State group has maintained a stubborn presence here since 2015 and the city has been the scene of frequent attacks.

On Wednesday, at the market in Jalalabad, customers examined the wide selection of goats, which ranged in size and colour. Some had been daubed bright pink, while others had lanky black hair. Within a few days, all will be slaughtered and eaten for the annual Eid ul-Azha festival.

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