Security

Ceasefire declared in Afghanistan as long awaited peace talks on horizon

Caravanserai

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In this photo taken on June 17, 2018, Taliban militants and residents stand on an armoured Humvee vehicle of the Afghan National Army (ANA) as they celebrate ceasefire on the third day of Eid in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province. [JAVED TANVEER / AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday (July 28) that "direct negotiations with the Taliban" would start within one week, pending a comprehensive ceasefire during the upcoming Eid ul Adha holiday.

"We call on the Taliban to join us at the negotiating table and to concluding promptly there a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire," Ghani said.

The same day, the Taliban issued a statement in Dari saying they ordered their fighters to observe a three-day ceasefire during Eid ul Adha, which begins Friday (July 31).

"All the mujahedeen [Taliban fighters]... are ordered to refrain from carrying out any operation against the enemy during the three days and nights of Eid ul Adha," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The Taliban banned its members from entering areas under Afghan government control and vice versa, presumably to prevent commingling and celebration among Taliban fighters, civilians and security forces, as was seen during the Eid ul Fitr ceasefire in June 2018.

Having had a taste of normal life, many Taliban fighters refused to return to the battlefield after that ceasefire.

Afghanistan has been in a state of war for nearly 19 years.

Far reaching consequences

A potential peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban would have far reaching consequences for the region and beyond.

For Central Asia, peace in Afghanistan would potentially alleviate a long-standing security issue, with the current, porous Afghan border offering militants a relatively easy way in and out of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Seeking to cement the Russian military presence in the region, the Kremlin has often used the instability in Afghanistan to inflate fears in Central Asia of the militant threat.

A number of Central Asian countries have been fostering the Afghan peace process, in particularly Uzbekistan and its president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Central Asian countries have also been strengthening trade relations with Afghanistan over the years in an effort to bolster regional security.

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