Taliban orders its first ceasefire in 17-year battle

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban until June 20 coinciding with the end of Ramadan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban until June 20 coinciding with the end of Ramadan

President Ashraf Ghani announced Thursday that his government was ordering a temporary ceasefire between June 12 and June 21, the period this year in which Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

U.S. forces said they would honour the Afghan government ceasefire.

USA forces in Afghanistan confirmed Thursday they would respect the Afghan government's ceasefire with the Taliban, with Gen. John Nicholson, commander of United States and worldwide forces in Afghanistan, describing it as "another bold initiative for peace". They also said they would defend themselves against any attack.

But Nicholson said his troops would not hesitate to respond if the Taliban broke the ceasefire.

Conversations with diplomats and senior officials in Kabul suggest that the unilateral cease-fire announced by the government had not been coordinated with the Taliban or the outcome of a broader, cohesive peace effort.

Ghani's decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics 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.

It was not immediately clear when the Taliban ceasefire would begin, as Eid starts when the moon is first sighted on either the 29th or 30th day of Ramadan, and the moon appears at different times across the country.

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. 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.

"We're ready to restart talks about peace with Pakistan again and forget bitter experiences of the past and start a new chapter", he said.

Over the past few years, as the USA has drawn down from the peak of about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, it has increasingly embraced a political settlement as the only end to the long Afghan war.

"You can't end 40 years of war in a few days, but this is definitely the best chance for a peace process since at least since the USA surge" of troops under President Barack Obama in 2010-2011, said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

In February, Ghani offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war.

According to local news reports, at least two dozen members of Afghan security forces were killed in Taliban attacks on Friday and Saturday.

Qureshi further added that at least nine Taliban insurgents were also wounded during the clashes with the security personnel.

Amani said that seven other forces were wounded in the attack late Frday night near Sari Pul city.

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