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Taliban Announce Brief Cease-Fire, as Afghan Peace Talks Look Imminent

2020-07-28 18:26:49
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KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban said on Tuesday that they would observe a three-day cease-fire this week during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, as Afghanistan’s president suggested the long-delayed talks between his government and the insurgents over ending the war could start in a week.

The developments promise to inject new optimism into a peace process that was floundering with disagreements over a prisoner swap and increased insurgent attacks, even as the United States continues to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

In a statement, the Taliban said they had ordered the group’s fighters “not to carry out any kind of attacks against the enemy” during the three days and nights of the Muslim festival, and to “retaliate strongly” only if attacked.

Afghan officials greeted the announcement with a note of caution.

“The Afghan government welcomes the announcement of a cease-fire by the Taliban in Eid days, but the Afghan people wanted a lasting cease-fire,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani. “The Afghan government has taken all necessary steps to show its commitment for the peace process and calls on the Taliban to show commitment too. The Afghan people are tired of war and it must end.”

In the deal the United States signed with the Taliban in February, the prisoner swap was expected to be completed in 10 days, paving the way for direct negotiations between government and the Taliban. But as the disagreements over the prisoner swap continued, the Taliban intensified their attacks against an Afghan force that has seen its support from the U.S. military drastically reduced under Washington’s deal with the insurgents.

Speaking at an event in Kabul on Tuesday, Mr. Ghani said 3,560 Afghan forces had been killed and nearly 6,800 others wounded since the February deal between the United States and the Taliban. And 775 civilians had been killed and 1,609 others wounded in the same period.

“The window of opportunity is narrowing, as Afghan women and men are seeing the continuation of carnage instead of a peace dividend,” Mr. Ghani said.

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