Afghan pres­i­dent announces cease-fire with Taliban

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS -

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN » Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani on Thurs­day an­nounced a week­long cease­fire with the Taliban to co­in­cide with the hol­i­day mark­ing the end of Ra­madan next week.

A state­ment sent from the pres­i­dent’s of­fice on Thurs­day said the cease-fire will be­gin on 27 Ra­madan, or Tues­day on the Western cal­en­dar, and last through the Eid al-Fitr hol­i­day, un­til around June 19. It says the cease­fire does not in­clude alQaida or the Is­lamic State group.

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment fromthe Taliban, who have steadily ex­panded their pres­ence in recent years, cap­tur­ing a num­ber of dis­tricts across the coun­try and car­ry­ing out near-daily at­tacks, mainly tar­get­ing Afghan se­cu­rity forces.

Gen. Mo­ham­mad Sharif Yaf­tali, the army chief of staff, told re­porters that Afghan forces would be on standby through­out the cease-fire and re­spond to any at­tacks. He also said the army would con­tinue to bat­tle “in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ists,” ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to al- Qaida and IS.

Ghani’s state­ment re­ferred to a gath­er­ing of Afghanistan’s top cler­ics on Mon­day in which they is­sued a de­cree against sui­cide at­tacks and called for peace talks.

A sui­cide bomber struck just out­side the gath­er­ing as it was dis­pers­ing, killing at least seven peo­ple and wound­ing 20 in an at­tack claimed by the Is­lamic State group.

The Taliban had de­nounced the gath­er­ing, in­sist­ing that its ji­had, or holy war, against for­eign in­vaders was jus­ti­fied. It in­stead urged the cler­ics to side with it against the “oc­cu­pa­tion.”

The U.S. and NATO for­mally con­cluded their com­bat mis­sion in Afghanistan in 2014, but the U. S. still has thou­sands of forces based there in a sup­port and coun­tert­er­ror­ism role.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said in a state­ment that the U.S. wel­comed the cease-fire.


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