KAWTAR KHANI, Afghanistan -- A shallow river separates a remote Afghan police post from Taliban positions in a rural province in southern Afghanistan.
Surrounded by massive sandbags to absorb incoming Taliban fire, soldiers inside the rough mud compound in Kawatar Khani, near Tarin Kot, the provincial capital of the southern province of Uruzgan, have seen a remarkable turnaround this week. Their lives have changed for the better since a weeklong partial truce came into effect on February 22.
Hazrat Shah, an Afghan police soldier serving at the outpost, says they have not fired on the Taliban since the insurgents began observing the armistice with Afghan government forces and U.S. troops in which all sides agreed to reduce attacks. Before that, he says, they were frequently responding to Taliban fire.
During a February 25 visit to the outpost, Shah pointed out that since the cease-fire went into effect they regularly communicate with the Taliban by waving or shouting. He discovered something remarkable when he met them face to face the previous day.
“They are as happy as us [about the armistice] because the Taliban are as tired of fighting as we are,” Shah told Radio Free Afghanistan.
Gulab Shah, another policeman, says they had previously talked to the Taliban through the barrel of a gun.
“Before the truce, we and the Taliban constantly waited to kill each other,” he said. “If we dared to raise our heads above our trenches, they attempted to shoot us. And we responded in kind,” he added. “Now we see each other and talk to each other, and we have sensed that we can co-exist.”
Gulab says they have reminded the Taliban not to break the truce by shooting at them. “They tell us the same,” he said. “For now, all of us are happy.”
Rafiullah, an Afghan police soldier wielding a Kalashnikov, says they and the Taliban fighters are equally delighted by the sense of peace.
“People unhappy over the truce are either very stupid or they are the enemies of Afghanistan,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “All of us -- be they Taliban fighters or government soldiers -- would like this cease-fire to extend.”
Radio Free Afghanistan attempted to talk to the Taliban fighters, but it was not immediately possible. Insurgents fighters only talk to journalists when allowed by senior leaders.
Civilians in the region say the truce has shown them what life in peacetime could look like.
“Our life is peaceful during the truce, but it was hell before because we couldn’t venture out and our honor and properties were not safe,” Muhammad Hanif, 50, a local resident, told Radio Free Afghanistan.
“Only a few individuals may not like peace, but it will make everyone else happy,” he noted.
Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Sharifullah Sharafat’s reporting from Kawtar Khani, Afghanistan.