Taliban announce first ceasefire since 2001 to mark end of Ramadan

  • Taliban announce first ceasefire since 2001 to mark end of Ramadan

Taliban announce first ceasefire since 2001 to mark end of Ramadan

The Afghan Taliban have announced a three-day cease-fire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a first for the group, following an earlier cease-fire announcement by the government.

The militant movement ordered its local commanders to observe a three-day break in operations against Afghan forces to mark the upcoming religious holiday of Eid.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban move was an opportunity for the militants to realise "their violent campaign" was "not winning them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause".

The deputy spokesman for the Afghan president welcomed the Taliban's agreement to the government ceasefire proposal for Eid al-Fitr, expressing hope that the decision can lead to lasting peace.

The UN Secretary-General´s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said in a statement he hoped the ceasefires would "serve as a stepping stone" towards peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The group also called for its fighters to avoid large gatherings to prevent any civilian deaths in potential airstrikes. Ghani's surprise announcement underscored his desire to establish a peace process that could put an end to a conflict that even his backers say cannot be won militarily.

While the Taliban announced it would halt attacks in response to Ghani's truce offer, it considers his government to be illegitimate and has said it would only hold peace talks with the United States rather than local authorities.

They also said they would defend themselves against any attack.

The insurgents did not officially respond, but announced the launch of their annual spring offensive in an apparent rejection of the plan, one of the most comprehensive ever offered by the Afghan government. It wound down its combat mission in 2014 but its Resolute Support mission comprises nearly 16,000 troops from around 40 countries. Mattis spoke to reporters during a break in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense ministers meeting. Hours before accepting the truce, the militants stormed military bases in western and northern Afghanistan, killing almost 40 soldiers.

In the meantime, Taliban insurgents have continued to carry out attacks.

Farhad said one soldier was wounded.

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 IS fighters as well as al-Qaida extremists, who remain a threat 17 years after the USA invaded. He added that eight insurgents were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded in the gun battle in Zewal district.