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US welcomes Afghan ceasefire, urges quick start to talks with Taliban militants

Published: Updated:

The United States on Tuesday welcomed a new ceasefire between Afghanistan’s government and Taliban insurgents, and voiced hope that they can quickly open talks.

“I welcome the announcements of an Eid ceasefire. Afghans deserve to celebrate the holiday in peace,” said Ross Wilson, the top US diplomat stationed in Kabul.

“I look forward to both sides fulfilling their commitments and moving quickly to intra-Afghan negotiations,” he wrote on Twitter.

Three-day ceasefire for Eid al-Adha: Taliban

Taliban militants announced on Tuesday that they will observe athree-day ceasefire for the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, starting on Friday, offering some respite from weeks of increasing violence.

Newly freed Taliban prisoners are seen at Bagram prison, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 11, 2020. (Reuters)
Newly freed Taliban prisoners are seen at Bagram prison, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 11, 2020. (Reuters)



Disagreements over a prisoner exchange and the violence havedelayed peace talks between an Afghan government-mandated
committee and the Taliban, as envisaged in an agreement signed between the United States and the militant group in Doha in
February.

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“In order for our people to spend the three days of Eid inconfidence and happiness, all fighters are instructed not to
carry out any operations,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted.

However, he added that if Taliban fighters come under attack from government forces, they will retaliate.

Peace talks could begin “in a week’s time”: Ghani

President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday that peace talks with the Taliban could begin “in a week’s time”, following the completion of a crucial prisoner exchange.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on March 1, 2020. (AFP)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on March 1, 2020. (AFP)

“To demonstrate the government’s commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic will soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners,” Ghani told senior officials at the presidential palace.

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“With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time,” he added, speaking in English.

The Afghan president's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said the government welcomed the ceasefire announcement but added that Afghans wanted enduring peace and the start of direct peace negotiations.

Attacks by militants

Since the US-Taliban agreement, 3,560 Afghan security forces personnel have been killed in attacks by militants, President Ghani said in a speech on Tuesday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report on Monday that more than 1,280 Afghan civilians had been killed in the first six months of the year, mainly as a result of fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban.

The US State Department said last week that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad would travel to the region to push for an agreement on prisoner exchanges and a reduction in violence.