Taliban leaders announced on Saturday, May 23, that the group will observe a three-day ceasefire across Afghanistan from Sunday, May 24, to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The announcement, made via the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on social media, stated that fighters should refrain from any offensive operations during the ceasefire, but prepare to take defensive action if attacked. The move was welcomed by President Ashraf Ghani, who ordered security forces to respect the truce and put planned operations on hold for the duration of the holiday.
In April, Ghani had sought to instigate a more formal bilateral ceasefire with the Taliban throughout the month of Ramadan. However, the president's proposals were rejected by the group and recent weeks have seen a significant surge in violence in many areas of the country. According to a government count, at least 146 civilians were killed and 430 wounded in Taliban attacks during Ramadan.
Militant attacks and security operations in areas with a significant Taliban presence are likely to be reduced during the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire. However, there is a realistic possibility that other groups not bound by the ceasefire may use the truce to stage terrorist attacks, including in major urban centers.
Taliban leaders previously declared a three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr in June 2018, with the truce being widely respected by the group's fighters and security forces across the country. However, subsequent attempts by the government to negotiate a longer ceasefire were rejected by the group, and violence continued unabated as Taliban leaders turned their attention towards talks with the US. The cessation of hostilities was not repeated during the 2019 holiday.
Individuals in Afghanistan are advised to remain vigilant during the ceasefire and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
The security environment in Afghanistan remains complex. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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