Taliban announce Eid Al Adha Afghanistan ceasefire
Militants' move follows a similar ceasefire for Eid Al Fitr in May
The Taliban have announced a three-day ceasefire for Eid Al Adha beginning on Friday, the group's spokesman said on Tuesday, amid weeks of increasing violence.
Announcing the move on Twitter, Zabihullah Mujahid instructed all "mujahideen" (Taliban fighters) not to carry out operations on "the enemy during the three days and nights of Eid".
Although he added: "Of course, if you are attacked by the other side, then respond strongly."
The offer came soon after President Ashraf Ghani said peace talks with the Taliban could begin in a week.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said security and defence forces had been instructed to observe the three-day ceasefire and not to carry out any operations against the Taliban, unless they violated the ceasfire themselves.
In an address earlier in the day at the presidential palace, Mr Ghani said a crucial prisoner swap with the Taliban is almost complete.
"To demonstrate the government's commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic will soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners," Mr Ghani said, referring to the number of insurgent inmates the government originally pledged to free under the auspices of a US-Taliban deal signed in February.
"With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week's time," Mr Ghani added.
The Taliban also urged their fighters avoid areas under government control and to "provide our countrymen with peace and tranquillity".
In May, the Taliban announced a ceasefire with the Afghan government for Eid Al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, following a string of attacks against government troops.
The three-day Eid Al Adha ceasefire is likely to again raise hopes of a longer-term reduction in violence in the country. However, May's truce was short-lived, with the insurgents soon resuming attacks.
Samira Hamidi, South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International, said that this is the third ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government and the previous ones have not led to a measurable progress in relation to actual peace process.
"Since Afghans are in dire need of peace, any effort to reduce violence is welcomed by the majority; however, we neglect the fact that these efforts are short, unsustainable and do not really end the conflict," she said.
"I believe the Taliban are not only playing with the safety of Afghan civilians, but also their emotions – while there is hope for three days of no bloodshed, they attack through different means that mostly harm civilians, and it is the same from the government side."
Political activist and founder of civil society group Youth Trend Afghanistan, Idrees Stanikzai, said the ceasefire is a welcome move, but was not enough to solve Afghanistan's problems.
"How can [the Taliban] kill us throughout the year and then take a break for three days to say we are united as if they are doing us a favour?" he said.
"If they are really committed to peace, they should start a long-term ceasefire, give up their guns, and start intra-Afghan talks. Only then we will believe this gesture as a gesture of peace."
Updated: July 28, 2020 08:01 PM