Taliban agrees to unprecedented Eid ceasefire with Afghan forces

Frederick Owens
June 10, 2018

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. The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, which Ghani endorsed.

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.

Just hours before the Taliban's Saturday announcement, at least 17 soldiers were killed when their checkpoint came under attack by the Taliban in western Herat province, said Gelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor.

In recent years, a resurgent Taliban has taken control of significant swaths of the country and terrorized citizens and foreigners alike.

Farhad said one soldier was wounded.

"I hope this ceasefire will turn into a process and as a professional army we await the president and the Afghan leadership's order".

"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.

The ceasefire will last from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr, President Ghani had tweeted last week, indicating it could run from June 12-19. At the time he also called for a ceasefire.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the Afghan government's efforts, calling them a "commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility".

"Should the Taliban take full advantage of the ceasefire in the best interests of the Afghan people, then numerous surveillance assets we have overhead could be re-oriented to ISIS, AQ and other foreign terrorists", he told reporters at the meeting in Brussels.

A member of security personnel stands guard in Kabul, Afghanistan.

However, U.S. -led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces are exempt from the ceasefire, with the Taliban saying they would continue to attack "foreign invaders", the Wall Street Journal reported.

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

Foreign combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014.

In February, Ghani offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war.

In the meantime, Taliban insurgents have continued to carry out attacks. Hours before accepting the truce, the militants stormed military bases in western and northern Afghanistan, killing almost 40 soldiers. He added that eight Taliban attackers were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded during the gun battle.

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