Afghanistan: President calls ‘conditional’ cease-fire as Taliban seizes northern district

afghan-map-65c

KABUL (TCA) — Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has called a “conditional” cease-fire with the Taliban to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday, just hours after insurgents said they had seized a district center in the northern province of Faryab, RFE/RL reported.

The cease-fire will commence on August 20 and run for three months, Ghani said during an Afghan Independence Day ceremony on August 19.

The United States said it welcomed the move, which is conditioned upon Taliban participation.

“We announce a cease-fire that would take effect from tomorrow, the day of Arafa, until the day of the birth of the prophet [November 19], provided that the Taliban reciprocate,” Ghani said.

He did not say whether Taliban authorities had agreed to the cease-fire. The Kabul government and the Taliban had declared a three-day cease-fire in June coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the last cease-fire revealed the “deep desire” of the Afghan people to end the conflict, “and we hope another cease-fire will move the country closer to sustainable security.”

The United States and our international partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate. It is our hope, and that of the international community, that the Afghan people may celebrate Eid al-Adha this year in peace, free from fear,” the statement added.

“The United States supports President Ghani’s offer for comprehensive negotiations on a mutually agreed agenda. ‎We remain ready to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. There are no obstacles to talks. It is time for peace.”

The announcement comes days after Taliban militants captured a military base in the same region.

Provincial Governor Naqibullah Fayeq said on August 19 that the Balcharagh district fell into the hands of Taliban fighters late on the previous day following several days of heavy clashes because the Afghan soldiers did not receive reinforcements.

Sergey Kwan

TCA