US, NATO Welcome Eid Truce, Urge Intra-Afghan Talks

US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson in a tweet on Tuesday night welcomed the announcements of a three-day ceasefire this week during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

“Afghans deserve to celebrate the holiday in peace. I look forward to both sides fulfilling their commitments and moving quickly to intra-Afghan negotiations,” said Wilson.

Also, NATO in a tweet welcomed the ceasefire announcement by the Taliban and Afghan government, sayingū: “It is an important step in the Afghan peace process that must lead to the earliest possible start of intra-Afghan negotiations.”

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire during Eid al-Adha ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations that are expected in the coming weeks.

The group asked its fighters to avoid attacking Afghan forces and to not enter government-controlled areas. This is the third ceasefire in the country since June 2019 when the group announced a three-day truce in Eid.

Judging from Taliban statements, it is expected that the intra-Afghan negotiations–mentioned in the US-Taliban agreement signed in late February–will not begin until the completion of a prisoner exchange by the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The exchange was a provision in the agreement as a confidence-building measure that would pave the way for negotiations. The government has so far released more than 5,400 Taliban fighters while the Taliban has released over 800 captive Afghan security forces. 

Violence has remained high in the last two months amid peace efforts by the Afghan government and its international allies.

President Ashraf Ghani, addressing the Senior Officials Meetings (SOM)  meeting in Kabul on Tuesday–which was held in preparation for the Geneva summit–said 3,560 members of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and 775 civilians were killed, and 6,781 ANDSF members and 1,609 civilians were wounded, between February 29 to July 21.

The Afghan government welcomes the Taliban’s ceasefire announcement, said presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

“The ceasefire announcement is a key step, but the people of Afghanistan want an enduring ceasefire and the start of direct peace talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban,” he added.

Sediqqi said that President Ghani has ordered Afghan forces to observe the three-day ceasefire and avoid any operation against the Taliban “unless they violate the truce.”

US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is currently on an intetnational trip to push for intra-Afghan talks.

Khalilzad departed on July 24 for Kabul; Sofia, Oslo,  Islamabad; and Doha, the US State Department said.

In Doha and Kabul, Khalilzad will press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence, according to the statement.

This article was originally published on this site.

This article was originally published on this site