KABUL (AP) – The Taliban announced that they will not carry out military operations in Afghanistan for three days during the Eid ul Adha Muslim holiday, which begins this weekend.
In a statement that promised a brief respite from the fighting, insurgent group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed said Tuesday that commanders had been ordered not to carry out operations for three days, although they could defend themselves.
Taliban fighters will not fraternize with Afghan security forces, and neither side will cross into opposite territory, he added.
The Afghan government welcomed the announcement, and presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said security forces were also ordered to stop the attacks and respond only to enemy fire.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, celebrated the ceasefire, noting that « our hope is that this Eid will bring all Afghans closer to mutual understanding and respect, and take them one step closer more towards sustainable peace ”.
The Taliban ceasefire came after a conciliatory message from its leader, Maulvi Hibatullah Akhunzada, earlier Tuesday to mark the holiday, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. Both statements coincided with Khalilzad’s return to the region to try to revive negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban.
In his Eid message, Akhundzada noted that the Taliban are not seeking to monopolize power in Afghanistan’s future political framework. The group also supports education for all and abides by the peace agreement signed in February with the United States, he added. The long message made several references to the Islamic government they want to establish, but did not explain how it would be different.
Khalilzad is expected to travel to Kabul as well as Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office. He is expected to visit Islamabad as well, although there were questions about whether Pakistan will continue to be part of his itinerary.
The pact between Washington and the Taliban signed on February 29 was touted as the best hope for peace in Afghanistan after decades of war. Although the United States and NATO have already begun to reduce their military presence in the country, the second phase of the deal – which includes talks between the Taliban and political leaders in Kabul – has been largely delayed by government reluctance to release several hundred prisoners from the group, as the document contemplates.
Associated Press journalist Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.