The Taliban on Saturday announced its first ceasefire in Afghanistan since the 2001 US invasion, with a three-day halt in hostilities against the country's security forces that was greeted with relief by war-weary Afghans.

But the group warned the suspension of fighting for the first three days of Eid, the holiday that caps off Ramadan, did not extend to “foreign occupiers”, who would continue to be targeted by the militants.

The unexpected move came two days after the Afghan government's own surprise announcement of a week-long halt to operations against the Taliban.

It is the first time in nearly 17 years of conflict that the militants have declared a ceasefire, albeit a limited one.

“All the mujahideen are directed to stop offensive operations against Afghan forces for the first three days of Eid-al-Fitr,” the Taliban said in a WhatsApp message to journalists.

But it added that “if the mujahideen are attacked we will strongly defend (ourselves)”.

The Taliban said “foreign occupiers are the exception” to the order sent to its fighters around the country. “Our operations will continue against them, we will attack them wherever we see them,” it said.

Hours before Saturday's announcement, Taliban militants launched two separate assaults on Afghan security forces in the western province of Herat and the northern province of Kunduz, killing at least 36 soldiers and police, officials said.

Even a brief cessation of hostilities would bring welcome relief to civilians in the war-torn country, where they are paying a disproportionate price in casualties as a result of the conflict.

'Only three days'

In recent years the resurgent militants, along with the Islamic State group, have stepped up their attacks on Kabul in particular, making it the deadliest place in the country for civilians.

“Only three days the Taliban are not killing us. The Taliban have won our hearts, if they strike a peace deal with the Afghan government, the Afghans will take them on their shoulders with love,” Shah Jahan Siyal, a resident of Nangarhar provincial capital Jalalabad, wrote on Facebook.

Dewa Niazai, a women's rights activist in the same province, posted: “Long live the Taliban! Finally we can breathe a deep sigh of relief on Eid days. I hope these three days of ceasefire turn to a permanent ceasefire.” But not everyone was satisfied.

“We shouldn't be happy with just a three-day ceasefire,” a woman in Kabul told AFP.

“It is not sufficient and our president also shouldn't be happy... We should reach for sustainable peace throughout the country.” President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the Taliban's move in a tweet from his official Twitter account. Defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told Tolo News he hoped the “ceasefire continues”.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said in a statement he hoped the ceasefires would “serve as a stepping stone” towards peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Opinion

Gaming LNG
Updated 05 Aug 2021

Gaming LNG

What looked like rank incompetence about a year ago is now beginning to smack of malfeasance.
Healing the spirit
05 Aug 2021

Healing the spirit

ROC medal winners could not hear their national anthem being played.
Returning to a repressive order
Updated 04 Aug 2021

Returning to a repressive order

There is no sign of the Taliban showing any flexibility in their position and taking a more moderate stance.

Editorial

A tragic anniversary
Updated 05 Aug 2021

A tragic anniversary

Attempts to change IOK's demography should end and India must open channels with the genuine Kashmiri leadership.
05 Aug 2021

Currency pressure

THE increasing demand for dollars in the wake of surging imports and debt repayments has put significant pressure on...
05 Aug 2021

Protecting breastfeeding

A LOT has been said about the fact that 40pc of children under five years in Pakistan are stunted. The reasons...
PML-N’s dilemma
Updated 04 Aug 2021

PML-N’s dilemma

The road ahead for the PML-N is going to be long and bumpy no matter which narrative it follows.
04 Aug 2021

Attacks on cops

AMIDST cautious optimism that Pakistan may be finally beginning to achieve success in bringing the number of polio...
04 Aug 2021

Myanmar about-face

SIX months into the coup that sent Myanmar’s hybrid civ-mil government packing, the generals have made their...