Afghanistan on Sunday declared a “conditional” ceasefire with Taliban militants ahead of the Eid-al-Adha festival this week. The ceasefire starts on Monday and will be in place for around three months, “provided the Taliban reciprocate”, President Ashraf Ghani said.
Unidentified insurgents in the Taliban told Reuters that their leaders had also provisionally agreed for a four-day truce during the festival. The group also said it would free hundreds of prisoners, but did not give further details.
“The conditional ceasefire will start tomorrow [Monday] and it will continue as long as the Taliban preserves and respects it,” Ghani said during celebrations of 99 years of independence from British rule. “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.”
The conditional ceasefire will run until the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, which will be observed in Afghanistan on November 21.
In June as well, ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr festival, Ghani had declared a week-long ceasefire with the Taliban, the first such declaration since he came to power in 2014. He then extended the ceasefire unilaterally, but was forced to end it after the Taliban did not agree. Ghani had allowed security forces to strike the militant group again, saying: “It is now the Taliban’s decision, whether they want to keep killing or join the peace process.”
The June ceasefire was marked by scenes of Afghan security forces and Taliban militants celebrating Eid together, with greetings, handshakes, hugs and selfies.
Welcoming the latest ceasefire, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was ready to support and facilitate direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.