Afghan Taliban announce surprise three-day Eid ceasefire

KABUL (Reuters) – The Afghan Taliban on Saturday announced a three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday at the end of this week, their first offer of its kind, following a ceasefire announced by the government on Thursday. An Afghan security force member stands guard in front of the Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018.
REUTERS/Omar SobhaniThe militants said foreign forces would be excluded from the ceasefire and that operations against them would continue. They also said they would defend themselves against any attack.
“In three days, maybe the unity of Taliban insurgents will be put to test,” a European diplomat told Reuters. “If different factions don’t accept the ceasefire, then attacks will continue.
” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban on Thursday, until June 20, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, but excluding other militant groups, such as Islamic State. Ghani’s decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings, one of which, claimed by Islamic State, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in Kabul.
The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation, saying it would last until June 20. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during during a peace and security cooperation conference in Kabul, Afghanistan February 28, 2018.
REUTERS/Omar Sobhani It was not immediately clear when the Taliban ceasefire would begin, as Eid starts when the moon is first sighted on either the 29th or 30th day of Ramadan, and the moon appears at different times across the country. Ghani has urged ceasefires with the Taliban before, but this was the first unconditional offer since he was elected in 2014.
In August, U.S.
President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes, aimed at forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge swaths of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.
The Taliban’s surprise announcement comes as Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to sit down to a summit in Singapore on Tuesday, something few people would have predicted just months ago when threats between the two sides were at their most bellicose. .

 

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