KABUL (Reuters) – For mother-of-four Nasima, the prospect of lasting peace in Afghanistan is almost too good to be true.
The 45-year-old, whose husband Nasir Ahmad was killed in a massive truck bomb in Kabul blamed on Taliban insurgents, is one of thousands of grieving relatives in the war-weary country who look upon a promised peace deal with skepticism as well as hope.
Afghanistan has been at war for decades. The Soviet invasion dominated the 1980s, civil war followed, the hardline Islamist Taliban movement held sway for a few years before being ousted in a U.S.-led assault, followed by 18 more years of conflict.
Tens of thousands of civilians, insurgents, Afghan security personnel and foreign troops have died, and loved ones will look on Saturday’s planned deal between the United States and the Taliban with mixed feelings.
“Anyone who can carry out such a brutal attack, how can I believe that they will let others live in peace?” Nasima asked, speaking in her Kabul apartment surrounded by her children.
But she would at least try to move on if the attacks really stopped.
“If they (the Taliban) are serious about getting together for real peace, I am ready to forgive the suffering they caused me and my family.”
The weekend agreement in Doha on an American troop withdrawal is connected to a wider push for reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government, although major obstacles to lasting peace remain.
One is the lack of trust between sides who blame each other for the heavy toll of war.
Nasima’s husband left home early one morning in late May, 2017, in search of work so that he could afford to bring home “iftar”, an evening meal served during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He had not found a job for a few days.
“A day before I had asked him about whether he found a job; he told me there were shops whose display windows needed cleaning for Ramadan and he was confident he’d find work if he got there early,” Nasima recalls.
At around 8:30 a.m., she heard a loud blast. Such was the intensity of the explosion that it shook the entire city.
The truck bomb was deadliest attack in Kabul in 18 years of war. No one has claimed responsibility for at least 150 people who were killed, including Nasir Ahmad.
Nasima’s memories of that day are harrowing, yet common among Afghans.
“At the hospitals I saw bodies covered with blood, charred. The wounded were screaming. There were boxes full of human body parts,” Nasima recalled.
Nasima has washed dishes and clothes for the last three years to support her children – two daughters, Naiema, 15, Sabzina, 13, and two sons, Waris, 10, and Arif, 7.
“I have lived my life and have had to suffer; but for my children I want peace,” she added.
Families of Taliban fighters and security personnel have also faced loss.
Haji Malik, 47, a shopkeeper in the northern city of Kunduz, lost his son, 18-year-old Sarajuddin, a Taliban fighter killed in a clash with international and Afghan forces in Paktika province in 2016.
Sarajuddin ran away from home two years earlier to join the insurgents, and Malik remembered the intense pain he felt when he received word of his son’s death.
He never got to bury his him, he said, because the body was in such bad shape that he had to be interred before his father got there.
“This (the Doha agreement) is a chance for peace in Afghanistan, which has suffered through years of war,” Malik told Reuters. “But if peace is coming, it should be real peace … not only for a few days.”
Habibullah Nazari, an officer in Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), which has been on the frontline of the fight against the Taliban, was killed in an attack by the militant group.
Nazari was preparing for a security mission along with six colleagues when a Taliban suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden vehicle into the NDS office in the western city of Herat.
He was the sole breadwinner for his family of 12, said his brother, Mohammad Gul, 23.
“Losing a family member is very painful, but I will have no complaint if peace, real peace, is restored,” said Gul. “I will believe my brother was martyred in the name of peace.”
Additional reporting by Sardar Razmal in Kunduz and Storay Karimi in Herat; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Mike Collett-White