Taliban, Afghan govt declare three-day Eid ceasefire

Published May 11, 2021
The image shows Afghan Taliban fighters. — AFP/File
The image shows Afghan Taliban fighters. — AFP/File

KABUL: The Taliban and Afghan government on Monday declared a three-day ceasefire for this week’s Eidul Fitr holiday, following a sharp spike in violence as Washington goes about withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan.

Violence has soared since May 1 — the deadline missed by the United States to withdraw the last of its troops — and while the Taliban have avoided engaging American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have not stopped.

In the latest, the interior ministry said on Monday that at least 11 people were killed by a bomb that struck a bus overnight in Zabul province.

That followed Friday’s carnage outside a school in the capital Kabul when a series of bombs killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 100 — most of them young girls.

Early on Monday, the Taliban instructed their fighters “to halt all offensive operations against the enemy countrywide from the first till the third day of Eid”.

Pakistan welcomes the truce

That was matched later in the day by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who went further by urging the Taliban to announce a permanent truce to end the bloody war.

Eidul Fitr marks the end of Ramazan, and the holiday begins according to the sighting of the new moon.

Permanent ceasefire needed

The Taliban and government have declared similar ceasefires in the past to mark Islamic holidays.

On Saturday, a series of bombs detonated outside a girls’ school in Dasht-i-Barchi, a suburb of Kabul populated by the Shia Hazara community. It was the deadliest attack in more than a year and came as residents were shopping ahead of the Eid holiday.

On Sunday, on a desolate hilltop cemetery, bodies in small wooden coffins were lowered into graves, one by one, by mourners still in shock.

“I rushed to the scene and found myself in the middle of bodies, their hands and heads cut off and bones smashed,” said Mohammad Taqi, whose two daughters were students at the school but escaped the attack.

“All of them were girls. Their bodies piled on top of each other.”

Why are they fighting Afghans?

Kabul resident Rashed Hashimi said the Taliban should stop fighting as US forces were leaving.

“The Taliban were saying they were fighting the foreigners, but now the foreigners are leaving,” he said. “So, why are they fighting Afghans?” Political analyst Fawad Kochi said the ceasefire was a way for the Taliban leadership to give its forces a brief respite from fighting that has intensified since the US troop withdrawal formally commenced on May 1.

“The government will try all possible channels to extend the ceasefire but the Taliban will go back to the battlefield right after Eid,” he said.

“The Taliban know that a prolonged ceasefire will split them and kill their momentum. They will never want that.” The Taliban insist they have not carried out attacks in Kabul since February last year when they signed the deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and withdrawal of the remaining US troops.

But they have clashed daily with Afghan forces in the rugged countryside.

The United States was supposed to have pulled all forces out by May 1, but Washington pushed back the date to September 11, a move that angered the insurgents.

Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada reiterated in a message released ahead of Eid that any delay in withdrawing the troops was a “violation” of that deal.

“If America again fails to live up to its commitments, then the world must bear witness and hold America accountable for all the consequences,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has welcomed the ceasefire.

“We fully support all efforts that lead to reduction in violence and contribute to achieving durable stability and lasting peace in Afghanistan,” the Foreign Office said.

Pakistan earlier strongly condemned the terrorist incidents in Kabul and Zabul and Parwan provinces that led to killing of several civilians.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

Opinion

Politics of the budget
Updated 12 Jun 2021

Politics of the budget

Govt wants to provide its disillusioned, disappointed voters the gratification they have been denied since the PTI came to power.
Federal features
12 Jun 2021

Federal features

At the core of the concept of federalism is sharing of power...
Missing gender
12 Jun 2021

Missing gender

Censorship in science raises many questions....
Learning and follow-up
Updated 11 Jun 2021

Learning and follow-up

Creating learning and feedback loops is important to reduce accidents, but this aspect remains missing in most organisations.

Editorial

12 Jun 2021

Feel-good budget

WE have been here before. Every time a government gets some fiscal space it immediately shifts gears to growth,...
Rep Omar’s tweet
Updated 12 Jun 2021

Rep Omar’s tweet

Over the last several decades, America has been instrumental in destabilising a number of Muslim states.
12 Jun 2021

Poor health indicators

IF the coronavirus has taught the world anything, it is that the old maxim ‘health is wealth’ is true. Though...
Changing course
11 Jun 2021

Changing course

Tarin says govt, IMF want sustainable economic growth, but both disagree on the path Islamabad must take to attain the objective.
11 Jun 2021

Political bartering

IN what appears to be a continuation of the unsavoury wheeling and dealing that is characteristic of Senate...
11 Jun 2021

Baghlan massacre

FEARS that Afghanistan will plunge into a torrid whirlpool of violence once all Western troops leave in September...