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Afghanistan announces week-long 'holiday' ceasefire with Taliban

07 Jun 2018 Daily Mail Online

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, aboveAfghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a week-long ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.Afghanistan today said it was pausing its fight against the Taliban for Eid, the holiday that caps off Ramadan, but operations against other groups including al-Qaeda and Islamic State will continue.The ceasefire will last 'from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr,' President Ashraf Ghani tweeted from an official account, indicating it could run from June 12-19 on the Western calendar. My statement on temporary ceasefire- [Pashto and Dari] #Afghanistan https://t.co/imfa3pmW9T— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) June 7, 2018

It was not immediately clear if the Taliban had agreed to the ceasefire, which would be the first for Eid since the US invasion in 2001.'We are checking with our officials regarding the ceasefire announcement,' Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.The Taliban have steadily expanded their presence in recent years, capturing a number of districts across the country and carrying out near-daily attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces.

The Taliban have steadily expanded their presence in recent years, capturing a number of districts across Afghanistan The surprise move comes days after a gathering of Afghanistan's top clerics in the capital Kabul called for a ceasefire and issued a fatwa against suicide bombings and attacks.But, an hour after the fatwa was issued, a suicide bomber detonated outside the gathering, killing seven people and wounding 20 in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.The Taliban had denounced the gathering, insisting that its jihad, or holy war, against foreign invaders was justified.It instead urged the clerics to side with it against the 'occupation'.Ghani said his government supported the clerics' call: 'The government of Afghanistan not only supports the unanimous fatwa announcement by the ulemas (scholars), but also backs the recommended ceasefire,' he said in a statement released by his office.

Afghan security officials display arms and ammunition seized during an operation in Paktia, Afghanistan, June 6

According to media reports a huge quantity of arms and ammunition was seized during an operation in Paktia and two suspects were arrested, above'[At] the same time, the Afghan government directs all the security and defence forces of the country... to stop all the attacks on the Taliban, but the operation will continue against Daesh (Islamic State), Al-Qaeda and other international terrorist networks.'In February Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban, including eventually recognising them as a political party. At the time he also called for a ceasefire.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.

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Last month, the Pentagon said that senior Taliban officials have been secretly negotiating with Afghan officials on a possible ceasefire.'A lot of the diplomatic activity and dialogue is occurring off the stage, and it's occurring at multiple levels,' General John Nicholson said in a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon.He would not identify the figures involved in the negotiations, except to say that they included mid- and senior-level Taliban officials.A ceasefire would bring welcome relief to civilians in the war-torn country, nearly 17 years after the Taliban regime was toppled.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a week-long ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the holiday marking the end of Ramadan (stock image)In recent years the resurgent militant group, along with the Islamic State group, have stepped up their attacks on Kabul in particular, making it the deadliest place in the country for civilians.Fearful residents have limited their movements and Eid celebrations in the capital are set to be muted, unlike in other parts of the Muslim world.NATO and the US formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, but thousands of American forces remain based there in a support and counter-terrorism role.The Trump administration has sent additional troops to try to change the course of America's longest war.The US has said it is open to an Afghan-led peace process.Gen John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said last month that some elements of the Taliban are showing interest in peace talks.

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