Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced a ceasefire with Taliban insurgents until June 20, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting season, but said fighting against other militant groups, such as Islamic State, would continue.
The decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics from across the country this week who declared a fatwa on Taliban attacks. A suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in Kabul.
The clerics recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation.
There was no immediate comment from the Taliban regarding the ceasefire. The Taliban had denounced the gathering of clerics, according to the Associated Press.
“This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect (sic) that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds but further alienating,” Ghani said in a message on social network Twitter after a televised address.
“With the ceasefire announcement we epitomize the strength of the Afghan government and the will of the people for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.”
Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war.
Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among a range of options including new elections involving the militants, and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that last year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 Afghan civilians.
Stepped up US strikes
U.S. President Donald Trump in August unveiled a more air strikes, aimed at forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table under the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge swaths of the country and, with foreign troop levels at about 15,600 compared with 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright military victory.