Ceasefire extension Hopes of peace for Afghanistan
These days, the Afghan people cannot hide their joy when they see government soldiers appear beside Taliban militants in the streets of the capital city of Kabul. An indefinite ceasefire has sparked great hopes of lasting peace for the war-torn South Asian nation.
Afghans take selfies with the Taliban militants in Kabul. (Photo: Reuters)
As a move considered as a surprise, on June 16th, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced an “indefinite extension” of the ceasefire which was agreed by the Kabul administration to last seven days, and only three days by the Taliban forces. The ceasefire began on June 12th, aiming to create a favourable atmosphere for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
President Ghani said that both sides had abided by their commitments and terminated hostilities on the occasion, therefore the extension of the ceasefire is appropriate. He expressed his belief that the Taliban fighters would also act in the same manner as the government, jointly moving towards real peace for the country.
The temporary ceasefire with the government forces was declared by the Taliban on June 9th, marking the first ceasefire agreed by the militant group since conflict broke out in Afghanistan in 2001. The aforementioned move transmits a rare signal of reconciliation as during the past 17 years the Taliban has constantly deployed attack campaigns and has not yet approved any reconciliation or dialogue proposals from the government.
The efforts made by President Ghani and the Afghan government in building peace for the country are the foundation and a source of encouragement for the Taliban to take part in the process of national reconciliation. In February, President Ghani announced his willingness to negotiate without any prerequisites and promised to recognise the Taliban as a legitimate political party if the rebel group renounced their arms, while recognising and abiding by Afghanistan’s 2014 Constitution. In his declaration on the indefinite ceasefire extension, President Ghani also pointed out that, from now on, the Taliban members can enjoy the same benefits and assistance as the Afghan people.
Shortly after the announcement of the ceasefire extension, the Afghan President’s Office stated that 46 Taliban prisoners had been released, as confirmation of the Kabul administration’s commitment to dialogue and reconciliation.
The foreign forces in Afghanistan, mainly U.S. troops and NATO allies, are always considered as an opposing side in the conflict at the Afghan battlefield by the Taliban, which has been cited as an excuse for their refusal to reconcile. The Taliban only enforced the ceasefire with the Afghan government, but it is still a positive step that has been welcomed and applauded by both the US and NATO.
The U.S. Secretary of State said the coalition respected the Taliban’s conflict cessation move, while the NATO leaders welcomed the move as a “positive step toward long-term and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.” Both the U.S. and NATO pledged their continued support for the reconciliation process between Kabul and the Taliban, aiming to seek a political solution to end the civil war in Afghanistan forever.
A senior representative of the European Union (EU) for external relations considered the ceasefire as a “historic agreement” and affirmed the EU’s strong support for steps towards peace in Afghanistan.
In fact, the issue of security in Afghanistan not only depends on the Taliban alone. Almost at the same time as the ceasefire extension was announced, an attack in Kabul occurred, killing 20 people, and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) claimed to be the culprit. Nonetheless, the ceasefire between the government and the Taliban remains a big hope.
The Afghan government and people are expecting the Taliban to back the ceasefire extension, thus paving the way for national peace and reconciliation. It is hoped that the atmosphere of reconciliation, maintained with the efforts and goodwill of the parties, will be a good start for a long-term peace in the South Asian country, which has been severely damaged by conflicts and war./.