Afghan President Ghani announces holiday ceasefire with Taliban

  • 7 Jun 2018

The ceasefire will begin on Ramadan 27, or June 12 and last through the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, until around June 19. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban, who have steadily expanded their presence in recent years.

The ceasefire does not include Al Qaeda or Daesh, says a statement from Afghan president's office. ( Reuters Archive )

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced a weeklong ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the holiday marking the end of Islamic month of Ramadan next week.

A statement sent from the president's office on Thursday says the ceasefire will begin on Ramadan 27, or June 12 on the Western calendar, and last through the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, until around June 19.

It says the ceasefire does not include Al Qaeda or Daesh.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban, who have steadily expanded their presence in recent years, capturing a number of districts across the country and carrying out near-daily attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces.

TRT World 's Ali Latifi brings us more from Kabul.

Battle with 'international terrorists' to continue

General Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the army chief of staff, told reporters that Afghan forces would be on standby throughout the ceasefire and respond to any attacks. 

He also said the army would continue to battle "international terrorists," apparently referring to Al Qaeda and Daesh.

Ghani's statement referred to a gathering of Afghanistan's top clerics on Monday in which they issued a decree against suicide attacks and called for peace talks. A suicide bomber struck just outside the gathering as it was dispersing, killing at least seven people and wounding 20 in an attack claimed by Daesh.

The Taliban had denounced the gathering, insisting that its jihad, or holy war, against foreign invaders was justified. It instead urged the clerics to side with it against the "occupation."

The US and NATO 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. 

The Trump administration has sent additional troops to try to change the course of America's longest war.

US forces' ceasefire

In a statement, the US forces said that they, too, would observe the ceasefire with the Taliban, but that it would not affect their counterterrorism efforts against terrorist groups like Daesh and Al Qaida.

"We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict," said Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan and head of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission.

"President Ghani's peace offer was universally supported by the international community and the ceasefire represents another bold initiative for peace and is for the benefit of all Afghans," Nicholson added. 

The US has said it is open to an Afghan-led peace process. Nicholson said last month that some elements of the Taliban are showing interest in peace talks.

NATO welcomes move

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the move and called on the Taliban to lay down their arms.

"The Taliban will not win on the battlefield," he told reporters at a meeting of defence ministers. "The only way for them to achieve a solution is to sit down at the negotiating table."

NATO has led international security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003. It wound down its combat mission in 2014, but its Resolute Support mission comprises almost 16,000 troops from around 40 countries. 

The conflict has been at a stalemate for several years, and NATO's best chances of leaving lie in the Taliban agreeing to peace talks and eventually joining the government.

In the meantime, the insurgents have continued to carry out attacks. On Wednesday, the Taliban attacked a police post in the eastern Ghazni province, killing three police and wounding five others, according to Ramadan Ali Mosseny, the province's deputy police chief.

In the eastern Khost province, a drive-by shooting at a mosque on Wednesday killed four people and wounded 15, said Talib Mangal, spokesman for the provincial governor. 

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the shooting, and it was not clear who the target was.