Afghan president announces Eid ceasefire with Taliban, but war against IS will continue

Afghan president announces Eid ceasefire with Taliban, but war against IS will continue
3 min read
07 June, 2018
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a ceasefire with the Taliban to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Eid.
Ghani is keen to establish a ceasefire with the Taliban [AFP]

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani announced on Thursday a week-long ceasefire with the Taliban militant group to mark the end of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

He said the surprise ceasefire would coincide with the Muslim holy festival and end of a month of fasting, although the government's war against the Islamic State group would continue.

The temporary halt in fighting will last "from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr", according to Ghani's Twitter account, although agencies said the Taliban have not yet confirmed the deal.

"This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect (sic) that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds but further alienating," Ghani added.

"With the ceasefire announcement we epitomise the strength of the Afghan government and the will of the people for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict."

There has been talk of a possible peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban in recent months, despite fighting in the country intensifying.

In February, Ghani said he would accept a peace deal with the Taliban and allow them to operate as a political party, so long as the militants accepted the Afghan constitution and laid down their arms. 

On 31 May, a US general confirmed that the Afghan government and Taliban were holding talks regarding a possible ceasefire.

Despite this, Afghanistan - and in particular, the capital Kabul - has been plagued by violence, including suicide bomb attacks.

This week, a group of leading Afghan scholars issued a fatwa condemning violence and suicide attacks. The meeting was then targeted by a bomber killing seven people.

"The government of Afghanistan not only supports the unanimous fatwa announcement by the ulemas (scholars), but also backs the recommended ceasefire," Ghani said in a statement released by his office.

He added that the war against al-Qaeda and IS - the most hardline militant factions in the country - would continue.

"(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 (IS), al-Qaeda and other international terrorist networks."

The Taliban were overthrown by a US-led offensive in 2011, due to the government harbouring key al-Qaeda figures, such as former leader Osama bin Laden.

The group launched an insurgency on US and Afghan forces, which centered on the Taliban's heartlands in the south of the country.

Meanwhile, a more extreme IS faction emerged, which also poses a threat to security in the country.

The Taliban want a return to the hardline Islamic law once administered by the group across Afghanistan.

Agencies contributed to this story.