Holiday cease-fire raises hopes for peace talks in Afghanistan

Hoshang Hashimi—AFP

In the western province of Herat, at least 17 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint in the Zawol district, provincial government spokesman Jelani Farhad said.

While one attacker detonated himself near the building, the other three were killed in a gunfight with security forces, officials said.

On Friday, senior US officials said they will intensify combat against the Islamic State affiliate in the country during the Kabul government's temporary halt to attacks on the Taliban.

However, Taliban said in its statement that its forces would attack the foreign soldiers stationed in the war-torn country.

Modi was referring to the Afghan government's surprise announcement of the week-long ceasefire with the Taliban for Eid.

Eid al-Fitr holidays, which begin at the end of Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, would probably falls on Thursday or Friday this year depending on sighting moon.

The Taliban have seized control of districts across the country, and the two groups have carried out attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in recent months, killing hundreds of people.

"You can't end 40 years of war in a few days, but this is definitely the best chance for a peace process since at least since the U.S. surge" of troops under former president Barack Obama in 2010-2011, said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

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But by the intractably violent standards of Afghanistan, the Taliban's first cease-fire pledge was cause for hope, and the timing seemed to present an opening for talks to prolong the break in hostilities. "Let us hope peace prevails", he said.

The Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, has sought refuge in Pakistan for over 16 years and now we have asked Pakistan to cooperate and assist in the peace process, she added.

Pakistani officials; however, told The Express Tribune that the ceasefire between the Afghan government and insurgents were being discussed quietly for past several weeks.

"Only three days the Taliban are not killing us".

In Kabul, a suicide attacker blew himself up outside the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, officials said. The festival lasts up to three days.

"The United Nations maintains that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, and welcomes these cease-fires as positive developments toward reducing the violence in Afghanistan and ending the war", said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.

The attack occurred as employees were leaving their offices early for Ramadan, police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said.

The NATO-led mission also said the cease-fire would not include counterterrorism efforts against Islamic State-Khorasan, al-Qaida and other regional and other global terrorist groups.

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