Civilians in the beleaguered Afghan capital have called on the Taliban and the Afghan government to cease hostilities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when all adults observe a fast from dawn to dusk.
The calls came in reaction to a Taliban warning to Kabul residents to avoid military and intelligence centers in the capital.
Thousands of Afghan civilians are killed in militant attacks every year. Teeming Kabul, where insurgents frequently launch deadly attacks, has witnessed the greatest number of civilian casualties.
Homayoon, a Kabul resident who goes by one name only, called on the warring sides to cease fighting.
"Why are they [the Taliban] conducting bomb and suicide attacks?” he asked while talking to Radio Free Afghanistan. “This is the month of Ramadan, and I want them to come to peace to put an end to this bloodshed in our country.”
Another Kabul resident, Abdul Ghani, backed the call for suspending violence.
“A lot of women have become widows and a lot of people were already killed by the Taliban, the government, and Daesh,” he said, referring to the Islamic State militants by their Arabic acronym. “I want them to make peace in the month of Ramadan.”
In a statement published online on May 21, the Taliban warned Kabul residents to stay away from "military centers" as they vowed more attacks. The insurgents said such attacks are part of their annual spring offensive.
"To avoid civilian casualties and only cause damage to enemy military, we are asking Kabul residents to keep away. … We don't want even a single innocent civilian to be killed," the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Defense Ministry has labeled the Taliban's fresh warning to Kabul residents as “hollow and ineffective propaganda.”
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh says the Afghan security forces would not let the terrorists achieve their goal.
"We are monitoring the gates of Kabul, and we always try to maintain safety and security,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “The fact that the Taliban always launch such propaganda is that they only want to ruin the mental security of the people, but they will not reach their goal.”
Aziz Wardak, a former army general and military expert, says civilians suffer because of Kabul’s high population density and the proximity of military and intelligence installations to residential areas.
"First, there is a strong need for strong intelligence to uncover and foil the plans of insurgents from where they originate far away from Kabul,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Secondly, in the city, the neighborhoods must have several strong security rings. For example, in areas where there are military units, the troops must be vigilant.”
In the past, the Taliban have accepted responsibility for attacks that hit civilians hard. For instance, more than 100 people were killed in a deadly Kabul attack claimed by the Taliban in January.
The Taliban began their spring operations in late April. Dubbed Al-Khandaq, it vowed to target “the Americans and their internal supporters.”
This is the first time the Taliban have warned of launching more attacks on military and intelligence centers in Kabul.
Afghan and U.S. officials have called on the Taliban to join peace talks because they are unlikely to score a military victory.