The Taliban has rejected a government call for a ceasefire in Afghanistan for the holy month of Ramadan, saying a truce is “not rational” as they ramp up attacks on government forces.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had appealed to the armed group to lay down arms for Ramadan, which began on Friday, to allow the authorities to focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
In a tweet late on Thursday night, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said a ceasefire would be possible if a potential peace process was being implemented “fully”, but “hurdles” meant the Taliban would not yet lay down arms.
“Asking for ceasefire is not rational and convincing,” wrote Shaheen.
Citing disagreements over the peace process and a delayed prisoner exchange as reasons to keep fighting, the Taliban spokesman accused the Afghan government of putting prisoners’ lives at risk during the outbreak.
Afghanistan has detected more than 1,300 cases of the virus, but health experts say the number could be higher as testing is limited and Afghanistan’s weak healthcare system would struggle with a widespread outbreak.
Hopes for an end to Afghanistan’s 18-year war were raised in late February when the Taliban and the United States struck a deal on the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.
Under the deal, the Afghan government and the fighters were by now supposed to have concluded the prisoner swap and started talks aimed at bringing about a comprehensive ceasefire.
The latest round of disputes came after dozens of Afghan security forces personnel were killed in a fresh wave of violence launched by the Taliban this week.
The attacks have mostly been limited to rural areas and small towns. Under the US-Taliban deal, the armed group had agreed not to attack cities.
American and other foreign forces have pledged to leave Afghanistan by July 2021, provided the Taliban sticks to several security guarantees and holds talks with the government.
Ghani had been calling for a lasting ceasefire with the Taliban for years, only to be ignored by the increasingly emboldened fighters.
The Taliban instead has mocked Ghani’s government, referring to them as “puppets” controlled by foreign powers, and have roundly refused to engage in peace talks as it intensifies attacks on Afghan forces.