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Afghan Sides Agree to Rare Cease-Fire During Eid al-Fitr

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban and the Afghan authorities introduced a cease-fire for the three days of the Islamic competition Eid al-Fitr, which begins on Sunday in Afghanistan, providing the war-torn nation a uncommon respite from violence that has been intensifying.

The insurgents, in an announcement late Saturday, mentioned that they had instructed their fighters to assault provided that their positions have been hit. Hours later, President Ashraf Ghani, who not too long ago ordered his troops to maneuver into offensive operations amid rising Taliban assaults, mentioned Afghan safety forces would comply.

“I welcome the cease-fire announced by the Taliban, and last evening I have ordered the security and defense forces to comply completely with the cease-fire and to remain on the defensive,” Mr. Ghani mentioned.

This is simply the second transient cease-fire that each side have agreed to in the course of the almost 20 years for the reason that U.S. invasion toppled the Taliban authorities in 2001. The first cessation of violence, during Eid in 2018, was widely celebrated across Afghanistan as a uncommon glimpse of what the nation might appear to be with out battle. Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic vacation that signifies the tip of Ramadan, the holy month of daytime fasting.

The announcement of the newest cease-fire was broadly welcomed by the United Nations, NATO and different allies of Afghanistan who’ve been urging the Taliban to cease the bloodshed, which has been threatening to derail a fragile peace process.

In February, the insurgents and the United States signed an initial peace deal that lays out a phased withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, and the following steps of a course of to finish the battle in a political settlement — together with an change of as much as 6,000 prisoners that may pave method for direct negotiations between the Afghan sides.

All of these steps have since hit obstacles, and the Taliban over the previous couple months have intensified their assaults on Afghan forces at the same time as they’ve left U.S. troops alone.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for Afghan peace who has been shuttling across the area once more in latest weeks regardless of Covid-19 journey restrictions, welcomed the cease-fire, which many hope can reset a bogged-down peace effort.

“This development offers the opportunity to accelerate the peace process,” Mr. Khalilzad mentioned. “Other positive steps should immediately follow: the release of remaining prisoners as specified in the U.S.-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.”

The Afghan authorities initially dragged its toes on the discharge of Taliban prisoners. The United States agreed to the Taliban’s demand for the discharge, however these talks didn’t embody the Afghan authorities, which is holding the prisoners.

After a lot stress, the government said that it would release 5,000, although in a phased method. Mr. Ghani had mentioned that 1,500 could be launched unconditionally as a good-will gesture, and the remaining if the insurgents decreased their assaults.

More than two months later, his authorities has launched only one,000 prisoners, and Mr. Ghani halted the method after the insurgents intensified their assaults. The new cease-fire seems to be the compromise the president was looking for.

“As a responsible government, we will take another step — I announce that we will expedite the release of Taliban prisoners and serious steps will be taken,” Mr. Ghani mentioned after the Eid prayer on Sunday morning.

Najim Rahim contributed reporting.

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