Afghan president announces temporary ceasefire with Taliban
President Ashraf Ghani tells security forces to cease operations against the armed group until June 20.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani announced on Thursday a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban until June 20, though it was not immediately clear if the armed group had agreed.
In a televised address, Ghani said fighting against other armed groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will continue.
The Afghan president told security forces to cease operations against the armed group until June 20, coinciding with the end of fasting month of Ramadan.
The ceasefire will last “from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-ul-Fitr”, the president tweeted from an official account, indicating it could run from June 12-19.
“This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds but further alienating,” he said.
“With the ceasefire announcement, we epitomise the strength of the Afghan government and the will of the people for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.”
‘Commitment to peace’
The surprise move comes days after a gathering of Afghanistan’s top religious leaders in the capital, Kabul, issued a fatwa – a religious edict issued by an expert in Islamic law – against suicide bombings and attacks.
The religious gathering was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing at least seven people.
The United States welcomed Afghanistan’s offer of a ceasefire to the Taliban, the State Department said on Thursday.
“The Afghan government’s offer of a temporary ceasefire underscores its commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility,” it said in a statement.
It added the ceasefire will allow the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan without fear of violence.
Russia also welcomed the ceasefire offer but said it doubts the Taliban will join it, Interfax news agency reported, citing Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan.
Ghani in February 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.
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 last year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 Afghan civilians.
Taliban has been fighting in Kabul since it was removed from power in 2001 by the US-led forces. The armed group has set the withdrawal of foreign forces as a pre-condition for peace talks.