Afghanistan announces Taliban cease-fire

Afghan President announced an unconditional cease-fire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Thursday announced for the first time an unconditional cease-fire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month, but excluding other militant groups, such as Islamic State.

The decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics this week declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings, one of which, claimed by Islamic State, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in Kabul.

The clerics also recommended a cease-fire with the Taliban, who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation, announcing a laying down of arms until June 20.

Ghani has urged cease-fires with the Taliban before, but this was the first unconditional offer since he was elected in 2014.

“This cease-fire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds,” Ghani said in a message on Twitter after a televised address.

There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban but an international political analyst based in Kabul was unimpressed.

“It’s a one-sided love story,” he said.

US Forces-Afghanistan said they would honor the cease-fire.

“We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” Gen. John Nicholson, US Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support commander, said in a statement.

The cease-fire would not include US counterterrorism efforts against Islamic State and al-Qaida, it said.

A NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was “really not too much to say” from NATO’s point of view.

“It is completely Afghan-originated and, as you know, it is our policy to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” he told reporters.

Former Afghan army general Atiqullah Amarkhel said the cease-fire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.

“From a military prospect, it is not a good move,” he said.

He also said he doubted the Taliban would lay down arms and deny themselves the opportunity of fighting during the holy month of Ramadan, in which attacks have intensified.

The Eid al-Fitr holiday ending Ramadan falls at the end of next week.

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