Saturday, 23 June, 2018

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

Afghan Taliban announce surprise three-day Eid ceasefire Afghan Taliban announces Eid ceasefire for first time
Kenny Thornton | 10 June, 2018, 10:24

Speaking on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers' meeting in Brussels, Nicholson said U.S. forces would respect the apparently unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday.

Ghani has urged ceasefires with the Taliban before, but this was the first unconditional offer since he was elected in 2014.

"The government announced a truce on the basis of Ulema's verdict to show to the world and Afghans that it had taken the initiative for peace months back and now is even willing to announce a truce and is pacifist".

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 Daesh fighters as well as al-Qaida extremists, who remain a threat 17 years after the USA invaded.

That unexpected move came two days after the Afghan government's own surprise announcement of an apparently unilateral week-long halt to operations against the Taliban.

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.

Ghani renewed his peace overture with the Taliban in a regional conference in Kabul in February.

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Foreign troop levels in the country have dropped to around 15,000, although US President Donald Trump previous year announced more air strikes in the country and wiped troop withdrawal deadlines.

Last month, the Pentagon said that senior Taliban officials have been secretly negotiating with Afghan officials on a possible ceasefire. Mattis spoke to reporters during a break in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense ministers meeting.

Laurel Miller, who served as a senior US official for Afghanistan and Pakistan under both Obama and Trump, said that while any action to reduce violence was positive, the differing terms and timelines for the two parties' cease-fires made the current circumstance a fragile one.

Provincial authorities in Kunduz said the Taliban ambushed police posts in the Qala-e-Zal district late Friday, killing 24 personnel stationed there.

Meanwhile, in northern Sari Pul, at least six public protection forces were killed after a checkpoint came under an attack by Taliban fighters, said Zabi Amani, spokesman for the provincial governor. He added that eight Taliban attackers were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded during the gun battle.

Taliban overran capital Kunduz city on late 2015 for nearly 10 days, before they were driven out by Afghan special forces backed by United States aircraft.

"Forty five insurgents were killed and 27 others wounded in government air strikes and clearing operations in Andar district in Ghazni province", defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said.

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