The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday starting Sunday in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the group signed a landmark agreement with the US.
“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,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement posted on social media.
The Taliban statement also instructed its fighters to refrain from entering government areas and also said that Kabul forces were not allowed to enter territories under their control.
Since the US invasion in 2001 there has only been one other pause in the fighting — a surprise three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul marking the religious festival of Eid in 2018.
During the brief lull in fighting, Afghans responded joyfully, with Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians hugging, sharing ice creams and posing for selfies in previously unimaginable scenes.
Saturday’s announcement comes just days after the Taliban’s leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the deal the militants signed with the United States that set the stage for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
The US-Taliban deal is also aimed at paving the way for the insurgents to hold direct peace talks with Kabul.
“The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement… and urges the other side to honour its own commitments and not allow this critical opportunity to go to waste,” Akhundzada said in a statement, using the Taliban’s name for Afghanistan.
Analysts however say the Taliban have been emboldened by the deal with the US, and Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since it was signed, killing 420 civilians and wounding 906.