Afghan President Announces Temporary Ceasefire With Taliban

(Bloomberg) -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban ahead of the holy Islamic festival of Eid ul Azha, which would be the second such pause in recent months if it takes effect.

The cessation in fighting will happen from Monday for three months if the insurgent group reciprocates, Ghani tweeted on Sunday. The Taliban didn’t immediately react and its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed didn’t respond to calls seeking comment. The last ceasefire took place for three days in June to unprecedented scenes of Taliban militants hugging Afghan security forces across some cities.

“We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long lasting and real peace, and we urge them to get ready for peace-talks based on Islamic values and principles,” Ghani said. “The Afghan government has removed all obstacles for a long lasting peace through these unprecedented steps.”

Another ceasefire would raise hopes of an eventual breakthrough in negotiations to end the 17-year-conflict and America’s longest war. A U.S delegation met with Taliban officials in Doha last month for peace talks and confidence building measures. Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada reiterated on Saturday calls for direct talks with U.S. The group has publicly refused to parlay with Ghani’s administration, which it sees as illegitimate.

Taliban Attacks

In recent weeks, the Taliban’s senior leaders have also traveled to Uzbekistan and Indonesia and held peace-related talks with the nation’s foreign ministers. However, those meetings have coincided with a wave of attacks that have killed hundreds. The group tried to take over strategic city of Ghazni last week, their most brazen assault on an urban area in two years.

Neighboring Pakistan, which has long been accused of providing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban, called for an extended cessation of hostilities.

“Pakistan fully supports all such efforts that contribute to achieving durable stability and lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday. “Preferably for a more extended period of time.”

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