Taleban agrees to unprecedented Eid ceasefire with Afghan forces

Hoshang Hashimi—AFP

Just hours before the Taliban's announcement, at least 17 soldiers were killed when their checkpoint came under attack by Taliban fighters in western Herat province, said Gelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor.

With growing anger over civilian casualties directed at both the Taliban and the government - especially following an airstrike by Afghan forces in April that reportedly killed dozens of civilians - the Helmand march "could give both sides a justification to engage in more confidence building measures around peace", Shuja said.

He said the government had announced the ceasefire with the Taliban only and Afghan forces should be careful about activities of other militant groups.

No one immediately claimed the attack, but the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate regularly strike government targets in the capital and elsewhere. "The PML-N government had played a pivotal role in initiating steps for peace in Afghanistan, including hosting the first ever direct, face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban in Murree in July 2015".

The Taliban's cease-fire is expected to run from June 15 to June 17.

Afghanistan faces insurgencies by the Taliban, Islamic State and the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

"We are hopeful that this historical move ensues direct, Afghan-owned and -led peace talks", Sayed Ehsan Taheri, spokesperson for the council, told VOA.

On Thursday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani offered a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban for Eid.It is the first time since the 2001 U.S. invasion that the Taliban militants have declared a ceasefire in Afghanistan.

It also added momentum - however tenuous - to efforts to start a peace process that could finally end almost 17 years of fighting.

At least 23 soldiers were killed and another nine wounded in the raid, Shah Wali Kot district police chief Padshah Khan told AFP.

"Only three days the Taliban are not killing us".

Earlier this week, the US military said it would observe the government cease-fire with the Taliban while continuing its activities against the Islamic State.

For the festival, Taliban fighters "are instructed to stop their offensive operations against domestic opposition", the militant group said in a statement to the New York Times, referring to Afghan forces.

"We don't know what will happen in the next few days or afterwards".

Laurel Miller, who served as a senior USA 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.

Under the new agreement, UAE troops will train recruits enlisted by the Afghan elite forces and can also be called upon to take part in specific operations targeting the insurgents, a senior Afghan official managing the arrival of UAE troops said in Kabul.

He went on to say that Kabul was ready to recognise the Taliban as a legitimate political group and even showed willingness to amend the country's constitution to accommodate insurgents' demands.

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