On Sunday, August 19, President Ashraf Ghani announced that the Afghan government would observe a conditional ceasefire with Taliban insurgents beginning on Monday, August 20, to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday. A senior official in the president's office stated that the ceasefire would remain in place until November 21 (the date on which Afghanistan observes the Prophet Muhammad's birthday); however, President Ghani said that the government would preserve the ceasefire for as long as the Taliban continued to respect it. Taliban leadership issued a statement saying that they would observe a four-day ceasefire, from August 20 through August 23, clarifying that Taliban forces would launch no assaults during this time but would defend themselves in case of attack.
Sunday's announcement comes amid a recent series of Taliban attacks - notably in Faryab, Baghlan, and Ghazni provinces - ahead of expected peace negotiations between Taliban fighters and the Afghan government. The multi-day Taliban assault on the city of Ghazni, while repelled on August 14, was likely intended to show the strength of Taliban capabilities in battle near Kabul, and therefore strengthen their position vis-à-vis the government in potential negotiations. These incidents have also threatened to undermine the perceived capacity of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and the Afghan government more broadly, to adequately provide security in the wake of the withdrawal of most US-led NATO forces from the country in 2014 and ahead of parliamentary and district elections scheduled in October of this year.
The security environment in Afghanistan remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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