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January 16, 2020

Afghan Taliban agree to 10-day ceasefire with US

Top Story

January 16, 2020

PESHAWAR: Senior members of the Afghan Taliban have reportedly agreed to a 10-day ceasefire with the United States and ‘bringing a major decrease in attacks or violence’ against the Afghan government and their armed forces in Afghanistan, Taliban sources said on Wednesday.

“There had been discussions for the past few weeks and after thorough deliberations, our decision-making body Rehbari Shura (leadership council) has agreed to a 10-day ceasefire with the US in Afghanistan. For the Afghan government and its armed forces, our leadership has decided to reduce attacks or whatever you call it,” a top Taliban leader and part of their 26-member leadership council told The News from somewhere in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province.

Pleading anonymity, as he is not authorised to interact with the media, the Taliban leader said that all sides would start acting on the ceasefire from the day when Taliban and US sign a peace accord in Doha. According to the Taliban, following the approval given by the Rehbari Shura, Taliban supreme leader Maulvi Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada also agreed to the ceasefire plan. The Taliban leader claimed that the peace talks with the US had entered a final stage and they could sign the peace accord anytime shortly. “We may not announce the ceasefire publicly but would make sure our military commanders to implement it wholeheartedly in the areas under their control. All sides had promised to sincerely honour their commitment and follow the ceasefire in their respective areas” said the Taliban leader.

During the ceasefire period, the Taliban would stop all types of attacks against the US and Afghan forces. “We would not carry out any type of attack during the proposed ceasefire period. There would be no suicide attacks, IEDs, target killing anywhere in Afghanistan from our side when the ceasefire is implemented,” the Taliban leader vowed. According to the Taliban, their peace talks with the US in Doha had completed quite earlier but the signing of the peace deal was delayed as the US wanted the Taliban to announce a ceasefire during the peace talks and also stop attacking the Afghan forces. It is seen a major change in Taliban policy as they also agreed to stop attacking the Afghan security forces after they sign a peace deal with the US. Until now, the Taliban had refused to give any relaxation to the Afghan government and its armed forces.

The Taliban said they had mentioned their areas or provinces where they are in control and it is agreed that neither US nor Afghan force will enter there or conduct any type of operation in those areas after the ceasefire is announced. “We would see how much the US is sincere in the peace talks and how the Afghan government reacts to the proposed peace accord if it reaches with the US. We can then extend it in case they responded positively,” said the Taliban leader.

During the ceasefire period, the Taliban said their fighters would not go to the areas where US military bases and forces are stationed in Afghanistan. Also, they would not enter the areas where the Afghan government and its military installations are based. “We would not even use the road where the Afghan forces had set up checkpoints to avoid any confrontation. And would expect a similar response to the ceasefire plan,” the Taliban said. Taliban said people would need to make a difference between the ceasefire with the US and bringing a reduction in attacks or violence against the Afghan government. “At the moment we are holding direct peace talks with the US and our ceasefire will mean only for them. For the Afghan government, we will bring a reduction in attacks and it will be depended on them how they respond to it,” the Taliban leader explained.

Another Taliban leader in Afghanistan’s Paktika province also confirmed this piece of information and said some of their military commanders had earlier opposed bringing a reduction in attacks against the Afghan government and its forces. However, he said all Taliban leaders later thoroughly discussed the issue and approved the ceasefire plan. He said their top leaders sat for days to develop consensus to the ceasefire plan.

The Taliban leader said they are expected to sign a peace accord with the US in the coming few days. “What we know is that all is set for signing the peace deal with the US. Once we are done with the US, we will then initiate the intra-Afghan peace talks and the venue is most probably could be Germany,” said the Taliban commander.

Taliban leaders and commanders said they preferred to start implementing the ceasefire plan a day earlier of the proposed peace deal with the US. “It was, in fact, the US demand for the success of the peace talks. They told us that people and the media in the US were criticising the Trump administration for holding talks with Taliban who are killing American soldiers in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban commander. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid neither denied nor confirmed the development.