Monday 25 June 2018

Taliban offered unconditional ceasefire to end 16 years of war

Afghan children with a poppy crop – the US government has spent billions of dollars attempting to eliminate opium production in Afghanistan but the country remains the world’s top producer of the drug. Photo: Getty Images
Afghan children with a poppy crop – the US government has spent billions of dollars attempting to eliminate opium production in Afghanistan but the country remains the world’s top producer of the drug. Photo: Getty Images

Hamid Shalizi

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday announced an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban.

It coincides with the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, but excludes other militant groups such as Isil.

The ceasefire - the first ever - came after Islamic clerics declared a fatwa against suicide bombings, one of which killed 14 people at the entrance to their peace tent in Kabul. Isil claimed the atrocity.

The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law and Mr Ghani endorsed the proposal, announcing a laying down of arms until June 20.

He has urged ceasefires with the Taliban before, but this was the first unconditional offer since his election in 2014.

"This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect (sic) that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds," Mr Ghani said in a message on social network Twitter after a televised address.

There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban but an international political analyst based in Kabul was unimpressed, saying: "It's a one-sided love story."

US military forces in Afghanistan will honour the ceasefire.

"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," said General John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan and the Nato-led Resolute Support.

The ceasefire will not include US counter-terrorism efforts against Isil and al-Qa'ida.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the announcement which he said "shows the seriousness of President Ghani and the Afghan government".

Russia also gave its backing.

"It is completely Afghan-originated and, as you know, it is our policy to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process," a Nato official said.

Former Afghan army general Atiqullah Amarkhel warned the ceasefire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.

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

He doubted the Taliban would lay down arms and deny themselves the opportunity of fighting during Ramadan, which ends next week. Attacks have intensified.

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

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News