Afghan govt and Taliban declare 2nd ceasefire in two decades

Kabul, May 24 (efe-epa).- The Afghan government and the Taliban announced a three-day long ceasefire- the 2nd in two decades of war- for the celebration of Eid in Afghanistan and both sides ordered fighters not to attack each other and to only act if they are attacked by the other side.

“I welcome the announcement of ceasefire by the Taliban” president Ashraf Ghani said in his congratulatory televised speech to the nation, after performing Eid prayers in presidential palace with government officials and politicians.

“Last night I ordered all Defense and Security Forces to fully comply with the ceasefire, and only remain in defensive posture” he said.

Ghani announced the ceasefire and welcomed the declaration of the truce today after the Taliban late last night announced on their part a three-day ceasefire for Eid celebrations, which is the 2nd of such ceasefire in the past 19 years of war as the first truce was declared and observe in June 2018 and it was also for Eid.

“In order our compatriots to perform Eid rituals with confidence, the leadership of the Islamic Emirate instruct all Mujahidins (fighters) to take special measures for the security of the compatriots during the three days of Eid and don’t launch offensive operations against enemy (Afghan government) in any part of the country, but if the enemy launch attack anywhere then strongly defend it” Taliban said in a statement late last night.

Taliban informed their fighters are “not allowed” to visit government controlled areas, and also clarified government forces cannot visit Taliban controlled areas during the ceasefire days, as was happened during the first ceasefire in 2018, during which Taliban fighters entered cities to celebrate Eid and posed for taking photos with security forces and ordinary people, a move that concerned Taliban leaders that they may lose control on their fighters if they again declare a ceasefire.

However, Ghani also informed “As a responsible government, we want to take another (goodwill) step as well, I announce, an acceleration will come in releasing (process) of the Taliban prisoners, and serious actions will be taken” in this regard. He also said “I call on the Taliban to release the prisoners of the security forces, in their prisons, on possible sooner time.”

The prisoner swap process of 5,000 Taliban in exchange for 1,000 prisoners of the Afghan government is a must to be done before to begin intra-Afghan talks between Kabul and Taliban as per the US-Taliban agreement, signed in Doha in February. So far government only released 1,000 of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners and Taliban released few hundreds of the 1,000 prisoners of the government in a unilaterally and slow prisoner swap process.

However, Ghani also indirectly encouraged the Taliban to extend the ceasefire by saying “Taliban are a reality of the Afghan society; their position can be defined on the negotiation table not on the battlefield”, adding “the winner of the peace is the nation of Afghanistan” he said adding war don’t bring anything else without “destruction” to the nation.

The ceasefire is considered to help the ongoing stalled peace efforts, facilitated by the US between Kabul and Taliban.

“We welcome the Taliban’s decision to observe a ceasefire during Eid, as well as the Afghan government announcement reciprocating and announcing its own ceasefire” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation, said on his twitter.

“This development offers the opportunity to accelerate the peace process” The envoy said, adding “Other positive steps should immediately follow: the release of remaining prisoners as specified in the US-Taliban agreement by both sides, no returning to high levels of violence, and an agreement on a new date for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations.” EFE-EPA


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