Taliban announces first cease-fire with Afghan forces since start of war

Afghan Taliban announce surprise three-day Eid ceasefire

Meanwhile, Tamim Asey, the deputy minister of defense for policy and strategy, said the Afghan forces will discuss the extension of the ceasefire if the Taliban remain committed to their decision.

"We welcome the three days ceasefire announced by the Taliban starting on the first day of Eid".

That unexpected move came two days after the Afghan government's own surprise announcement of an apparently unilateral week-long halt to operations against the Taliban.

"The government announced a truce on the basis of Ulema's verdict to show to the world and Afghans that it had taken the initiative for peace months back and now is even willing to announce a truce and is pacifist".

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the truce was intended for the Eid holiday and would not affect the group's larger objectives, which include the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

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

It would last "from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr", Ghani tweeted from an official account, indicating it could run from June 12-19.

In February Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban, including eventually recognizing them as a political party.

"This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds, but further alienating the #Afghan people from their cause", he added on Twitter.

The Afghan government hopes that the Taliban will respond positively to the demands of the people and clergy in Afghanistan and focus on putting an end to the war in the country, Shah Hossein Mortazavi said.

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An Afghan security force member stands guard in front of the Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018.

But he did not touch the issue of presence or withdrawal of foreign troops, a key demand of the insurgents. The Taliban said it was not behind the attack, but described the meeting as "a U.S. effort". It is underpinned both by the heavy daily toll of the long war on ordinary Afghans and U.S. President Donald Trump's limited patience for the costly U.S. involvement here.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this could, for example, allow the U.S.to partially shift the focus of aerial surveillance from the Taliban to IS fighters as well as al-Qaida extremists, who remain a threat 17 years after the US invaded.

The Islamist insurgency has inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan forces since launching its spring offensive in April and reportedly killed around 500 personnel last month.

This comes as the local officials in Herat province said at least 17 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces lost their lives in a similar attack in Zawal district late on Friday night.

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Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among options including new elections involving the militants and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that a year ago alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 civilians.

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