Amid war, a respite from conflict as Afghanistan marks Peace Day

21 Sep 2009

Amid war, a respite from conflict as Afghanistan marks Peace Day

KABUL - A rare 24 hour cessation of offensive operations marking International Peace Day appeared to be holding firm across Afghanistan on Monday, with only isolated security incidents reported as of late afternoon.

“So far things are certainly different from any ‘normal’ day at this time of year. We’re seeing almost no incidents at this point,” said Nauludole Mataitini, Chief Security Adviser for the UN in Afghanistan.

Officials at both Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defence and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said the day appeared much quieter than usual, with only a scattering of minor incidents and no serious casualties.

Staff in UNAMA’s regional offices reported a similar situation. “It’s very peaceful… hard to believe,” said Gabriel Iribarne, Head of Office in Kunduz. As of mid-afternoon, and with the exception of a rocket in the Nareza area of Khost province’s Tani district that landed without harming anyone, and an unconfirmed incident in Kunar, things looked quiet. “We know there has been activity in Kunar's Nari district but at this stage it is too early for us to state anything categorically,” said Nicholas Hercules, Officer-in-Charge, Eastern Region.

International Peace Day was established by resolutions 36/67 and 55/282 of the UN General Assembly, and aims to achieve a day of global ceasefire and non-violence. Of the world’s major conflicts, Afghanistan has come close to achieving the aim of a complete halt in hostilities thanks to major campaigns since 2007. On Peace Day 2008 the UN’s Department of Safety and Security recorded a 70 percent drop in security incidents in Afghanistan. Peace Day 2009 falls during the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations and the hope has been that the coincidence of dates would result in an even bigger impact.

Ahead of this year’s Peace Day Afghanistan’s Government ordered its forces to stand down. A similar declaration halting offensive operations was made by ISAF. The Taliban agreed to support a Peace Day polio immunization drive last week.