Afghan Taliban announces Eid ceasefire for first time
10 June, 2018, 10:24
The armed group said on Saturday that the ceasefire would exclude foreign forces, and that it would defend itself against any attack. The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, which Ghani endorsed.
The surprise move by the government came days after a gathering of Afghanistan's top religious leaders in the capital, Kabul, issued a fatwa - a religious edict issued by an expert in Islamic law - against suicide bombings and attacks.
"(Operations against ISIS) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire", U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of USA and global forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.
In recent years, a resurgent Taliban has taken control of significant swaths of the country and terrorized citizens and foreigners alike.
Four people were killed and five wounded by unidentified gunmen in a separate attack on a lawmaker's Nangarhar home on Friday.
"People of Afghanistan and the High Peace Council are hopping that it will be a step to start face-to-face talks between Afghan government and armed Taliban", said Ehsan Taheri, spokesman for the High Peace Council.
President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday declared an apparently unilateral week-long ceasefire with the Taliban.
"We're ready to restart talks about peace with Pakistan again and forget bitter experiences of the past and start a new chapter", he said.
Ghani renewed his peace overture with the Taliban in a regional conference in Kabul in February.
A statement sent from the president's office on Thursday said the government's cease-fire will begin on 27 Ramadan, or June 12 on the Western calendar, and last through the Eid al-Fitr holiday, until around June 19, adding that the cease-fire does not include al-Qaida or the Islamic State group.
An Afghan security force member stands guard in front of the Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018.
The Taliban also said it may release prisoners including government troops, provided they agree to refrain from fighting insurgents in the future, the statement said.
"You can't end 40 years of war in a few days, but this is definitely the best chance for a peace process since at least since the USA surge" of troops under President Barack Obama in 2010-2011, said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington.
The US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, but the US still has thousands of forces based there in a support and counterterrorism role.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this could, for example, allow the U.S.to partially shift the focus of aerial surveillance from the Taliban to Daesh fighters as well as al-Qaida extremists, who remain a threat 17 years after the US invaded.
The Islamist insurgency has inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan forces since launching its spring offensive in April and reportedly killed around 500 personnel last month.
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