Taliban And Afghan Government Declare Their Second Ceasefire In Two Decades

The Afghan government and the Taliban have declared their second ceasefire in two decades of war, which will last three days, starting this Sunday, and on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

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“Last night I ordered all the Defense and Security Forces to fully comply with the ceasefire and to only remain in a defensive position,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced this Sunday in a televised address to the nation.

The president thus responded to the declaration of a ceasefire that the Taliban made on Saturday night, lasting three days and on the occasion of the celebrations for the end of Ramadan. “I welcome the announcement,” said Ghani.

“In order for our compatriots to perform the Eid rituals with confidence, the leadership of the Islamic Emirate – as the Taliban call themselves – instructs all mujahideen (fighters) to take special measures for the safety of compatriots during the three days of Eid and not launch offensive operations against the enemy anywhere in the country, “the Taliban announced hours earlier in a statement.

The statement added that the combatants will only be able to act in defensive acts during that period and that “they are not allowed” to visit the areas under government control, nor will they allow government incursions into the territories controlled by the insurgents.

With that warning, the Taliban leaders try to avoid the images of fraternization that occurred in the first ceasefire between the two sides in 19 years of war in 2018, also during the end of Ramadan.

Insurgent leaders fear losing control over their militants as on that occasion, when numerous fighters entered the cities to participate in the Eid festivities and photographs were taken with their inhabitants and the Afghan security forces.

RESUME OF PRISONER RELEASE

“As a responsible government, we want to take another step. I am announcing that there will be an acceleration in the release of Taliban prisoners and serious steps will be taken to do so,” the president said during his speech to the country.

“I call on the Taliban,” he continued, “to release the security force prisoners from their jails as soon as possible.”

The exchange of prisoners, 5,000 Taliban in exchange for 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces, is contained in the peace agreement that the insurgents reached with the United States in Qatar last February, by which the American power promised to withdraw its troops and those of its allies in Afghanistan in 14 months.

However, the liberation process, which started off on the wrong foot due to the failure of the technical talks on it between the Taliban and the government, was paralyzed in recent weeks given the escalation of violence that the insurgents undertook since the signing of the pact from Doha.

Both parties launched to unilaterally release the prisoners on accusations by the opponent of not releasing the agreed prisoners.

So far, the government has removed a thousand prisoners from jails, while the Taliban released several hundred.

UNLOCKING THE PEACE PROCESS

The Afghan government also views the ceasefire as an opportunity to derail the intra-Afghan peace process, stuck in the release of prisoners. Therefore, Ghani encouraged the Taliban to maintain the ceasefire.

“The Taliban are a reality of Afghan society. Their positions can be defended at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield … The winner of the peace is the nation of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the war it only brings “destruction” to the country.

“We welcome the Taliban’s decision to declare a ceasefire during Eid, as well as the reciprocal announcement by the Afghan government,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghan Reconciliation, said on Twitter.

He stressed that the ceasefire “offers an opportunity to accelerate the peace process” and added that “other positive steps” such as the release of prisoners “without returning to high levels of violence”, as well as “an agreement for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations. ”

Baber Khan Sahel

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