Afghan government declares provisional ceasefire after aid arrives to Ghazni

Afghan government declares provisional ceasefire after aid arrives to Ghazni
Afghanistan's president has declared a provisional ceasefire with the Taliban following a week of extraordinary violence across the country.
2 min read
19 August, 2018
President Ashraf Ghani said the ceasefire will only hold if insurgents reciprocate [AFP]
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional ceasefire with the Taliban in a televised broadcast on Sunday following a recent surge in conflict, but said the truce would hold only if the insurgents reciprocated.

"I once again announce a ceasefire from tomorrow until the prophet's birthday provided that the Taliban reciprocate," said Ghani, referring to the Prophet Mohammed's birthday which is celebrated on 21 November in Afghanistan.

The president's announcement follows an extraordinarily violent week in which Taliban militants pressed against security forces across the country and Islamic State insurgents attacked Kabul, including with a suicide blast at a school that killed at least 37 people.

Just weeks earlier, Afghans marked an unprecedented nationwide ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces in June, giving some relief to war-weary civilians during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Aid to Ghazni

Earlier on Sunday, deliveries of aid trickled into the eastern Afghan city of Ghazni, days after security forces pushed Taliban militants from the city.

A week of heavy fighting had exacerbated poor conditions for residents, who had suffered food and water shortages after insurgents overran the city, torching buildings and destroying infrastructure in a battle that killed hundreds of people.

"We need this aid to survive," said Gul Badshah, one of many in Ghazni who made their way to distribution centres on Sunday, who said his home had been destroyed by two rockets during the onslaught.

Siraj Ahmad, another resident, said he was collecting aid for a neighbour whose husband - a police officer - and young son were killed by the Taliban during the fighting.

"They had no one else left in their family so I decided to come here for them and get any donations to take for them," he said.

Rice, oil, beans and tea were handed out after the first humanitarian convoy arrived in the Ghazni on Saturday, said Afghan Red Crescent regional head Mohammad Esmail.

He added that the Red Crescent hoped to reach 800 families Sunday, followed by another 1,200 on Monday.

"The people who receive this aid are those who have either lost their loved ones or houses during the fighting in Ghazni," Esmail said.

According to the UN, at least 200 civilians died in Ghazni prior to the expulsion of the Taliban by US-backed Afghan forces on Wednesday.

Analysts, however, say the Taliban dealt the Kabul government a psychological blow by proving they could take and temporarily hold the strategically important city near the capital.