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What life is like for Afghans under Taliban control

For months, American diplomats have been negotiating with Taliban leaders to end the war in Afghanistan. U.S. officials hoped the Taliban would announce a suspension of fighting this week, but details have yet to be determined. Meanwhile, the war grinds on, with attacks nearly every day. But what is life like for Afghans existing under Taliban control? Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    For months, American diplomats have been negotiating with the Taliban leaders to find a way to end the war in Afghanistan.

    American officials were hoping the Taliban would announce this week a suspension of fighting. But the details of such an agreement, how long would it last, how much area would it cover, remain to be worked out.

    Meanwhile, the U.S.' longest war grinds on with attacks every day by both the U.S. and the Taliban.

    What is life like for Afghans who live in territory controlled by the Taliban?

    Special correspondent Jane Ferguson traveled to Wardak province for a rare look at life behind Taliban lines.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Efforts to end America's longest war are once again ramping up. This time, the U.S. is pushing for a cease-fire before signing a deal with the Taliban.

    That crucial gesture could be agreed to at any moment. In Taliban-controlled areas like this, a cease-fire, however long it lasts, could change the lives of many.

    Little Agha Waheed tells me his favorite subjects. He doesn't know his age, but he knows he loves school. Nearly half the population of Afghanistan is under 15 years old, and as long as the war continues, this will be the next generation of fighters.

    Excited shouts fill the air, as dozens of little boys arrive for class. It's late afternoon, but there are so many children living in this area and so few schools, they learn in shifts.

    These kids have only ever known a life in wartime. Their home in Wardak province is just 30 miles outside the capital, Kabul, but it's firmly in Taliban control. Fighters living among them are a normal part of life.

    A real peace deal in Afghanistan would give these boys a chance at living peaceful lives. While the Taliban rules this region with the gun, money for the very few public services still comes from Kabul.

    Schools in Taliban areas are still technically state schools. They are funded by the government, and the people who work in them are technically government workers. It's simply that the areas around them and the communities that these kids come from are dominated by the Taliban.

    This is one of the most violent parts of the country. I traveled here to Wardak province, sneaking through Afghan army checkpoints dressed as a local Afghan woman, to see what life is like for people living under the Taliban and close to the fighting.

    The insurgent group agreed to allow us this rare access, yet they keep a watchful eye and escort us everywhere.

  • Mujib Rahman (through translator):

    Sometimes, the boys join the Taliban because of what they go through in the situation here. It affects them inside, when their relatives were killed.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Mujib Rahman is a teacher here. He says life on the front line of this war has taken a terrible toll on the children. It's the kind of stress even an adult would struggle with.

    But despite all the hardship, these boys dream of a better life.

  • Mujib Rahman (through translator):

    I am hopeful that, in the future, they will have access to more education and they will get to go to college.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    People in these areas are surviving between two violent sides in this war.

    His colleague, Esmatullah Omari, told us that, when government soldiers come to raid nearby villages, they enter the school and use it as a base.

  • Esmatullah Omari (through translator):

    Whenever the security forces come, they break the doors and come in here and take our notebooks and stationary. Can you tell the security forces not to come to our school?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    There are no girls at this school, and one person, who asked not to be named, told us the Taliban banned girls from attending.

    We asked the commander in the area about Taliban policy on schooling for girls.

  • Man (through translator):

    We have education for girls and boys in separate schools. We have created an educational atmosphere for them in our areas. They are enjoying their education.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Yet, despite his assurances, in a nearby village, we found one small religious school with only three little girls inside. They were terrified when they saw the Taliban gunmen with us.

    Getting an education can sometimes seem like a luxury for an entire generation of children just trying to survive this war. The United Nations says this is the most deadly war in the world today and, in a report released earlier this month, said nine children are killed or maimed every day.

    It's an increase over previous years, mainly due to suicide bombings by the Taliban and fighting between the group and Afghan and American forces.

    Taliban land mines blow up civilians travelling by road, and American airstrikes also claim many lives here. This area is constantly under surveillance, being watched from the sky.

    We are not going to stay very much longer where we are, because we have attracted a bit of a crowd of people. The — and we can hear surveillance, some sort of surveillance aircraft above us.

    We soon spotted several helicopters flying overhead.

    A peace deal has the potential to change everything for these people, but would only be the first step in a long, difficult road to a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

    The next step, getting the Taliban to agree to share power and put down their weapons, will be harder than announcing the pullout of American troops.

    These Taliban commanders foresee no compromise on the horizon.

  • Man (through translator):

    Our struggle will continue until either America ends its occupation of Afghanistan or judgment day.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    If the Americans leave, and there is peace in Afghanistan, would you still consider them your enemy?

  • Man (through translator):

    Yes, of course. The infidels are our enemy until the day of judgment. We will continue to fight them.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Navigating an end to this war is among America's greatest foreign policy challenges today.

    For children like Agha, it would mean a chance at a different life, a life the generation before him has only dreamed of.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jane Ferguson in Wardak, Afghanistan.

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