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Afghan Gov’t Pushes For Cease-fire With Taliban

FILE: Taliban fighters during a brief cease-fire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar Province in June 2016.
FILE: Taliban fighters during a brief cease-fire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar Province in June 2016.

Afghanistan’s government is pushing for a comprehensive cease-fire in the wake of a looming agreement between the Taliban and the United States that will pave way for the withdrawal of American troops and kickstart direct talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

“The results of the [peace] efforts by the Afghan government and the United States should result in a cease-fire,” Afghan Presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi told Radio Free Afghanistan. “We want a cease-fire that has a clear definition and results in ending the violence and war.”

The demand presents a new challenge to negotiations between Washington and the Taliban. The two sides are reportedly discussing modalities of reducing violence levels following the resumption of talks last month. In September, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly called off negotiations over a Taliban attack in Kabul.

But the Taliban have outrightly rejected a cease-fire.

"The Islamic Emirate has no intention of declaring a cease-fire,” a December 30 statement by the group said while referring to itself by its formal name. “The United States has asked for a reduction in the scale and intensity of violence, and discussions being held by the Islamic Emirate are revolving solely around this specific issue."

More recently, a Taliban spokesman alluded to the group’s inflexibility on the issue. "The [U.S.-Taliban] peace agreement is finalized and only remains to be signed [by the two sides]," Suhail Shaheen told VOA last week.

Authorities in Kabul, however, are pushing for more specific cease-fire commitments.

“We hope that the Taliban will respect the desire of the Afghan people for peace and accept the proposals by the Afghan and U.S. governments for a cease-fire and an end to the war in the country,” Seddiqi said. “For the Afghan people and government, a reduction in violence is a vague term. It is not practical and cannot be implemented.”

British diplomat Nicolas Kay, NATO’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, said that while efforts to reduce violence will have an impact on the lives of all Afghans, the parties involved need to work out the specifics of an agreement.

“We must be patient as these trust-building measures are worked out,” he wrote on Twitter. “We look forward to firm and credible guarantees from the Taliban for peace.”

The Taliban and Afghan government engaged in a three-day armistice during the Eid Al Fitr holidays in June 2018. The brief lull in fighting was widely welcomed across Afghanistan, with Taliban fighters flocking to cities across the country.

Negotiations between the Taliban and the United States have mostly revolved around American troop withdrawal in return for Taliban counterterrorism guarantees, a cease-fire, and commitments to seek a permanent settlement though negotiations among Afghans.

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