The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday starting on Sunday in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the group signed a landmark agreement with the United States.
President Ashraf Ghani swiftly welcomed the insurgents’ offer and ordered his forces to also comply, while the US envoy to Afghanistan hailed the deal as a “momentous opportunity.”
Taking to social media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the group’s “leadership instructs all the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate to take special measures for security of the countrymen, and conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere.”
The Taliban’s cease-fire announcement follows an Eid al-Fitr message from the Taliban leader which said the insurgent group was committed to the peace deal, was not seeking to monopolize power and promised to guarantee the rights of women and men under an Islamic system.
The peace deal calls for the full withdrawal of US and NATO troops by the end of next year but only if the Taliban honour their commitment to fight against terrorist groups and guarantee that Afghanistan cannot be used as a staging ground of attacks against the United States and its allies.
On Wednesday, US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was in Doha where he discussed counter-terrorism, intra-Afghan talks and the withdrawal of American forces from the country under the peace deal with senior Taliban leaders.
Khalilzad also met President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul and congratulated them on their agreement to form an inclusive government after proctracted negotiations.
The agreement also calls for talks between Taliban and the often-bickering political leadership in Kabul to decide the future of a post-war Afghanistan. It also calls for the release of prisoners by both the government and Taliban as a good will gesture ahead of the talks.
The US-Taliban deal is aimed at paving the way for the insurgents to hold direct peace talks with Kabul.
Last Thursday, Khalilzad said that the Islamic State (IS) terror group had conducted two deadly attacks in Afghanistan earlier, which killed more than 50 civilians.
The US-Taliban deal signed in Qatar on February 29 calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners to open the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.
(With inputs from agency)