Can Afghan Armistice Open Door for Peace Talks?

Taliban Attacks Afghan Forces in Kunduz 15 Killed

Hours before Saturday's announcement, Taliban militants launched two separate assaults on Afghan security forces in the western province of Herat and the northern province of Kunduz, killing at least 36 soldiers and police, officials said.

On Saturday, the Afghan Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire over Eidul Fitr, the first such truce by insurgents since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

While one attacker detonated himself near the building, the other three were killed in a gunfight with security forces, officials said.

Despite having agreed to a limited three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan from Tuesday in view of Eid-al-Fitr, the Taliban carried out at least two attacks on Monday, in which 21 people were killed, including six civilians.

Security officials said they would suspend operations against the Taliban in line with the ceasefire, but would respond if attacked.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a unilateral cease-fire Thursday, a gambit meant to apply pressure to the Taliban as Afghan civilians have begun pleading more vocally for peace after decades of conflict.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for carrying out both the attacks, saying it also overran several security posts and seized military equipment, including weapons. "The PML-N government had played a pivotal role in initiating steps for peace in Afghanistan, including hosting the first ever direct, face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban in Murree in July 2015".

The Afghan government, which took the lead and offered unconditional peace talks and a cease-fire with the Taliban, is hoping for more from the deal.

"We welcome the Taliban response and [are] looking forward to seeing it turned into opportunities for lasting peace in Afghanistan", Shah Hussain Murtazawi, a spokesperson for Afghan President Ghani, told VOA.

USA officials said Thursday that the Taliban had expressed interest in the pause in hostilities through Pakistani back channels and other mechanisms.

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In his video message, Ghani said all Afghan security forces would be instructed to stop offensive operations "only on Afghan insurgents", with ISIS, al Qaeda and other global terrorist networks excluded from the ceasefire. A Defense Ministry spokesman said Taliban also were killed in fighting in 10 provinces.

All the deaths were claimed by the Taliban.

"We don't know what will happen in the next few days or afterwards", he added.

The government announced the ceasefire last week.

"Only three days the Taliban are not killing us". They also said they would defend themselves against any attack.

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Afghan political analyst Haroon Mir said the Taliban's reciprocal, albeit shorter, ceasefire was "positive" for the Afghan people, but he cautioned that significant hurdles to peace remained.

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