US welcomes Afghanistan's latest ceasefire offer to Taliban

Afghan man shovels off debris after Taliban burned a market in the city of Ghazni on Aug 14, 2018.
Afghan man shovels off debris after Taliban burned a market in the city of Ghazni on Aug 14, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Sunday (Aug 19) welcomed the announcement by Kabul of a provisional ceasefire with the Taliban, saying the plan "responds to the clear and continued call of the Afghan people."

The announcement by President Ashraf Ghani followed a bloody week of fighting across Afghanistan which saw the Taliban launch a massive assault against the provincial capital Ghazni.

It came after a brief, unprecedented ceasefire earlier in June.

"The last ceasefire in Afghanistan revealed the deep desire of the Afghan people to end the conflict, and we hope another ceasefire will move the country closer to sustainable security," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

"The United States and our international partners support this initiative by the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and we call on the Taliban to participate.

"It is our hope, and that of the international community, that the Afghan people may celebrate Eid al-Adha this year in peace, free from fear," he added, referring to the Islamic holiday that starts next week.

Ghani declared the latest ceasefire in a televised broadcast on Sunday on the condition that the Taliban reciprocated.

 
 
 

"I once again announce a ceasefire from tomorrow until the prophet's birthday provided that the Taliban reciprocate," said Ghani, referring to the Prophet Mohammed's birthday which Afghanistan celebrates on Nov 21.

The president's announcement was immediately welcomed in neighboring Pakistan, which has long been accused of fostering links with the Taliban's leadership and providing sanctuary to its fighters, and by Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

But it drew mixed responses among Afghans. Some analysts said it might be perceived as an act of desperation by the government following mounting battlefield pressure from insurgents.