Taliban commanders meet to consider Afghan government cease-fire offer

But the fighter, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons and because he is not allowed to speak to the media, warned that he thought most of the Taliban’s field commanders would be in favor of continuing their jihad against Afghan and foreign troops.

“There are two reasons we may not announce a cease-fire,” he said. “First, jihad is the best worship and we would like to continue it in this holy month. Second, we have already deployed our fighters in different provinces and it would be too difficult to keep them in those areas without pursuing jihad.”

The Taliban did not officially respond to the government’s announcement.

While they have been fighting the U.S.-backed government since being ousted from power in 2001, the Taliban have steadily expanded their presence in the country in recent years, capturing a number of districts.

Image: Residents look at a damaged military vehicle
A military vehicle damaged in a battle between Afghan security forces and Taliban in western Farah Province in May. Reuters

The group carries out near-daily attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces. Another senior commander who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said he and his comrades doubted the Afghan government’s sincerity.

“The entire world and the Afghan nation will see that despite a cease-fire, the Afghan security forces will continue their operations,” he said, adding that the Taliban had gained lots of ground and commanders would probably not risk the group’s progress by laying down their arms, even temporarily.

Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the army’s chief of staff, told reporters earlier that Afghan forces would be on standby throughout the cease-fire and would respond if necessary.

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. The Trump administration has sent additional troops to try to change the course of America’s longest war.


In a statement, the U.S. forces said that they, too, would observe the cease-fire with the Taliban, but that it would not affect their counterterrorism efforts against terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

“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,” said Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

In a separate statement, the U.S. State Department said it welcomed Ghani’s offer.

“We stand with the Afghan people as they law the foundation for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

The U.S. has said it is open to an Afghan-led peace process. Nicholson last month said that elements of the Taliban are showing interest in peace talks.

In the meantime, the insurgents have continued to carry out attacks. On Wednesday, the Taliban attacked a police post in eastern Ghazni Province, killing three policemen and wounding five others.

In eastern Khost Province, a drive-by shooting at a mosque on Wednesday killed four people and wounded 15. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the shooting, and it was not clear who the target was.

Mustaq Yusufzai reported from Pakistan, and Saphora Smith from London.


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