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Afghanistan Taliban plan 3-day cease-fire for Eid holiday

File: An Afghan security force member stands guard at a security tower.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The Taliban and Afghan government on Monday declared a three-day ceasefire for this week’s Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, following a sharp spike in violence as Washington goes about withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan.

Violence has soared since May 1 — the deadline missed by the U.S. to withdraw the last of its troops — and while the Taliban have avoided engaging American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have not stopped.

In the latest, the Interior Ministry said on Monday that at least 11 people were killed by a bomb that struck a bus overnight in southeastern Zabul province.

That followed Saturday’s carnage outside a school in the capital Kabul when a series of bombs killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 100 — most of them young girls.

Early Monday, the Taliban instructed their fighters “to halt all offensive operations against the enemy countrywide from the first till the third day of Eid”.

That was matched later in the day by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who went further by urging the Taliban to announce a permanent truce to end the bloody war.

Gen. Bajwa’s visit

Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan, and the holiday begins according to the sighting of the new moon.

The Taliban and government have declared similar ceasefires in the past to mark Islamic holidays.

The ceasefire announcements came as Pakistan’s military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Kabul and met top officials including Mr. Ghani, according to a statement.

Pakistan would always support an “Afghan led-Afghan owned” peace process, Gen. Bajwa said at his meeting with Ghani. He was also accompanied by Pakistan’s spy chief Lieutenant General Faiz Haimd.

Pakistan is a key regional player in Afghanistan’s peace process, and Afghan officials have often accused Islamabad of arming and sheltering the Taliban.

On Saturday, a series of bombs detonated outside a girls’ school in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb of Kabul largely populated by the Shia Hazara community which is often targeted by extremist Sunni Islamist militants.

It was the deadliest attack in more than a year and came as residents were shopping ahead of the Eid holiday.

On Sunday, on a desolate hilltop cemetery, bodies in small wooden coffins were lowered into graves, one by one, by mourners still in shock.

 

Political analyst Fawad Kochi said the ceasefire was a way for the Taliban leadership to give its forces a brief respite from fighting that has intensified since the U.S. troop withdrawal formally commenced on May 1.

“The government will try all possible channels to extend the ceasefire but the Taliban will go back to the battlefield right after Eid,” he said.

“The Taliban know that a prolonged ceasefire will split them and kill their momentum. They will never want that.”

The Taliban insist they have not carried out attacks in Kabul since February last year when they signed the deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and withdrawal of the remaining US troops.

But they have clashed daily with Afghan forces in the rugged countryside.

The U.S. was supposed to have pulled all forces out by May 1, but Washington pushed back the date to September 11 — a move that angered the insurgents.

Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada reiterated in a message released ahead of Eid that any delay in withdrawing the troops was a “violation” of that deal.

“If America again fails to live up to its commitments, then the world must bear witness and hold America accountable for all the consequences,” he warned.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 2:47:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/afghanistan-taliban-plan-3-day-cease-fire-for-eid-holiday/article34525034.ece

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