Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Taliban announces first cease-fire with Afghan forces since start of war

Taliban announces first cease-fire with Afghan forces since start of war

Taliban militants have ordered their first ceasefire in Afghanistan's grinding 17-year-long insurgency, just days after the Afghan president offered his own temporary truce as a peace overture. Earlier, they had issued an "Op-ed" on their website criticising the fatwa, and calling it an effort "to legitimise the illegal occupation [of the U.S.]" "The fatwa declared by the Peace Council under the name of the Ulema is full of ignorance and distortion", it read, adding that jihad is also obligatory against "their domestic supporters and puppets", referring to the Afghan government and the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause", Mr. Ghani said in a public statement.

"Mujahideen are instructed to halt offensives against local opponents, but defend if they are attacked", the group said.

The militants said foreign forces would be excluded from the ceasefire and that operations against them would continue.

The Taliban statement said global forces in the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation coalition would still be the target of attacks.

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.

Even a brief cessation of hostilities would bring welcome relief to civilians in the war-torn country, where they are paying a disproportionate price in casualties as a result of the conflict.

Although the Taliban statement did not acknowledge the government cease-fire, the moves by the two sides would overlap for three days.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during during a peace and security cooperation conference in Kabul Afghanistan
Taliban agree three-day Eid ceasefire in Afghanistan

Many diplomats and officials in Kabul saw the ceasefire as a small gesture of trust-building at best, and warned that it was too early to pin too much hope on it as some of the most basic questions about a concrete peace process remained unresolved.

The clerics were themselves targeted in a suicide attack claimed by IS, which killed 14 people at the entrance to their peace tent in Kabul.

All the deaths were claimed by the Taliban.

The Trump administration has increased the number of US troops in Afghanistan in an effort to give local forces, which continue to struggle despite more than a decade and a half of outside support, a battlefield advantage. However, it insisted that attacks on foreign forces should continue.

The Taliban attacked security outposts in the Zawul district of western Herat province on Friday night, killing 17 troops and wounding several, Jelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor, said.

Qureshi said eight militants were killed and nine wounded in the clashes.

An Afghan Muslim man reads versus of the Quran in a mosque during Itikaf, the last ten days of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, in Kabul, Afghanistan. A dozen other were wounded in the overnight Taliban attack, but the exact figures are not yet clear, Safiullah Amiri, another provincial member, said.

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