Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Taliban announces first cease-fire against Afghan forces for Eid al-Fitr

We are in the middle of a new offensive against ISIS in Nangarhar says General John Nicholson We are in the middle of a new offensive against ISIS in Nangarhar says General John Nicholson
Patty Aguilar | 10 June, 2018, 10:25

Foreign troop levels in the country have dropped to around 15,000, although US President Donald Trump past year announced more air strikes in the country and wiped troop withdrawal deadlines.

Ghani first spoke about the possibility of a ceasefire with the militant Islamist group in February, when he announced that the Afghan government was willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a potential agreement.

"(Operations against ISIS) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire", U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of United States and worldwide forces in Afghanistan, told reporters. The Taliban controlled Afghanistan until 2001, when it was overthrown by a US-led coalition that invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks.

On Friday, senior US officials said they will intensify combat against Daesh affiliate in the country during the Kabul government's temporary halt to attacks on the Taliban. "We should reach for sustainable peace throughout the country".

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced a weeklong cease-fire with the Taliban to coincide with the holiday.

Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among a range of options including new elections involving the armed group, and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that previous year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 Afghan civilians.

"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. It instead urged the clerics to side with it against the "occupation".

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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has led global security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003.

"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 US 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.

But he did not touch the issue of presence or withdrawal of foreign troops, a key demand of the insurgents.

"Hope the pleasure of shedding no Afghan blood in Eid becomes so overwhelming that rest of year is also declared as Afghan Eid", he said on Twitter.

Kunduz officials and provincial council members said Taliban attacked a number of security check posts on Friday just after midnight in Qala-e-Zal district.

His offer comes amid a rise in attacks by the insurgents, who have gained ground in recent months despite a surge in ground and aerial offensives by USA and Afghan forces.

Qureshi further added that at least nine Taliban insurgents were also wounded during the clashes with the security personnel.

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