Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a temporary cease-fire with the Taliban for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that caps off the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, though it was not immediately clear whether the militants had agreed.
The truce will last from June 12 until around June 20, Ghani said in a video message on June 7, as deadly militant attacks across Afghanistan showed no sign of easing during Ramadan.
Ghani said that Afghanistan's security forces will "stop offensives" against Afghan Taliban militants but will continue to target the extremist group Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, and "other international terrorist groups" and their affiliates.
The cease-fire is "an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not wining [sic] them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause," the president wrote on Twitter.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed declined to comment to RFE/RL on the matter.
Senior security officials said the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated to the Taliban, was also included in the unilateral cease-fire.
The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said that foreign forces will also honor the cease-fire.
"We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict," General John Nicholson said in a statement.
Ghani's announcement comes days after the country's top religious body issued a religious order, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden, or "haram," under the principles of Islam.
Meeting in Kabul on June 4, the Afghan Ulema Council also appealed on both Afghan government forces and the Taliban and other militants to agree on a cease-fire, and called for peace negotiations between the sides.
A suicide bombing outside the gathering, attended by around 2,000 Muslim clerics, scholars, and figures of authority in religion and law from across Afghanistan, killed at least seven people, including several clerics.
A local affiliate of IS claimed responsibility.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed Ghani's announcement, saying on Twitter that "there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan."
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to join the cease-fire, saying that the militant group "will not win on the battlefield."
"The only way for them to achieve a solution is to sit down at the negotiating table," he told reporters.
The U.S. State Department said that "the Afghan government's offer of a temporary cease-fire underscores its commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility."
It said it will allow the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday without fear of violence.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the announcement will be "an opportunity to reduce levels of violence and create space for talks to begin."
However, a former Afghan army general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, expressed concerns that the cease-fire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.
"From a military prospect, it is not a good move," he told Reuters.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces as well as government officials across the country since the announcement of its spring offensive in April.
In February, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
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