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Taliban, Afghan Government Announce Three-Day Cease-Fire To Mark End Of Ramadan

By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan May 23, 2020

The Afghan Taliban announced a three-day cease-fire on May 23 to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Shortly afterward, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered security forces to abide by cease-fire as well.

In a post on Twitter, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the movement's leadership has ordered all fighters to "conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere." In addition, they have been told to ensure "the security of fellow citizens."

The cease-fire is set to begin on May 24.

Ghani posted on Twitter that government forces would reciprocate.

"As commander in chief, I have instructed [Afghan security forces] to comply with the three-day truce and to defend only if attacked," Ghani wrote.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalizad, described the cease-fire as "a momentous opportunity" to accelerate a stalled U.S.-Taliban peace process.

"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," Khalizad wrote on Twitter.

In February, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the longest military action in U.S. history. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for security commitments from the Taliban.

A deadline for the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government passed in March amid a spike in violence and disagreements between the two sides over prisoner swaps.

The prospect of direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban gained a boost on May 17 when Ghani and his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, reached a power-sharing agreement nearly eight months after disputed elections that led to a parallel government and hampered efforts to broker a peace deal.

The United States has about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. Washington pays about $4 billion a year to maintain the Afghan military.

Taliban militants control about half of Afghanistan's territory and have continued to carry out attacks since the deal was signed.

More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to a 2019 survey by the Asia Foundation.

In April, the Taliban rejected a government call for a Ramadan cease-fire, saying it was "not rational."

Afghan intelligence service spokesman Javid Faisal said on May 23 that at least 146 civilians were killed and 430 wounded in Taliban attacks during Ramadan.

With reporting by AFP and AP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan- taliban-announce-three-day-cease-fire-to- mark-end-of-ramadan/30630612.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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