The Taliban in Afghanistan have announced that they have agreed a three day cease fire with the Afghani Government that will remain in place for the duration of Eid, according to BBC News. The Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, which starts on Sunday, is a time of celebration that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Afghanistan has been enveloped in months of violence incidents between the Taliban and the government.
Al Jazeera reports the Taliban announcement instructed all fighters to refrain from taking offensive action and moving into government controlled areas for the duration of the ceasefire. The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid released a statement saying that “the leadership instructs all the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate to take special measures for security for the countrymen, and conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere.” Afghani President Ashraf Ghani quickly welcomed the announcement and compelled government forces to comply and resist confrontation with Taliban forces.
A similar ceasefire was agreed in Afghanistan for Eid celebrations during two years ago, although violence quickly ensued after the ceasefire came to an end. Analysts are largely expecting the same result this time around after months of worsening violence in this South Asian state. 2018 was the the first time the group had declared a temporary ceasefire in the history of the Afghanistan conflict. This current ceasefire is only the third occasion. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reported that in January, the U.S. and Taliban signed an agreement which would pave the way to peace, which included a significant withdrawal of American troops from the country, an agreement not to harbour terrorists in Afghanistan and peace talks between the Taliban and government. Sadly since this agreement, direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghani government have stalled due to violence that continues to be widespread in the country.
While progress is slow, the ceasefire shows an increasing willingness of the Taliban to engage in tactics other than campaigns of violence and terror. The Eid ceasefire may provide a well needed opportunity to restart negotiations between the parties. However, underlying tensions remain high after an attack on a maternity ward in Kabul that killed 24 people occurred only earlier this month. According to BBC, after the Taliban denied involvement in the incident, President Ghani ordered offensive operations against the group to resume.
All sides should use the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire as an opportunity to revaluate the path to peace in Afghanistan and to reconnect with their fellow countrymen. During the 2018 ceasefire members of the security forces and Taliban hugged and posed for selfies according to reporting by Al Jazeera. However, while analysts predict those kinds of displays of affection to be unlikely this time, it shows the path to peace is paved with small steps. Let’s just hope Afghanistan is walking in the right direction.