Taliban, Afghan Government Forces Celebrate Together As Holiday Ceasefire Holds

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Unarmed Taliban militants rolled into Afghanistan’s capital on Saturday to celebrate the end of the Ramadan season with government troops and civilians, as a three-day holiday ceasefire continued to hold throughout the country.

Dozens of Taliban fighters entered Kabul through access control gates in the southern and southeastern parts of the city, Reuters reported. Their appearance caused traffic jams when motorists stopped to take selfies with the Taliban fighters, who were sporting traditional headgear paired with sunglasses.

The show of goodwill even extended to senior Afghan government officials. Taliban fighters met with Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak in the capital, an almost unimaginable prospect just a few weeks ago.

The Taliban announced on June 9 an unprecedented three-day ceasefire to mark the Eid holiday, which began Friday. The temporary truce does not include American or other foreign forces operating in Afghanistan.

At the same time, Kabul declared a longer, five-day ceasefire that lasts through Wednesday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has praised the pause in hostilities as a way to convince the Taliban come to the negotiating table instead of returning to the battlefield after the Eid holiday.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, impromptu celebrations between Taliban and government forces came together the same way they did in the capital. Local media outlets showed video of Afghan soldiers and Taliban greeting and hugging one another in Logar and Zabul provinces, south of Kabul. In the eastern city of Jalalabad, residents offered fruit and ice cream to Taliban fighters, while children played games with the militants, Reuters reported.

Saturday was not completely without violence in Afghanistan, however. The peace was broken in Nangarhar, where a car bomb detonated at a gathering of Taliban and government forces, killing at least 20 people.

The Taliban denied carrying out the attack, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility from any other group. Afghanistan also faces insurgencies from the local Islamic State affiliate and the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support, and its Afghan government partners have had limited success in beating back the Taliban insurgency. Despite an increase in U.S. troop deployments and airstrikes over the past year, Taliban militants have been able to carry out devastating attacks in Afghanistan’s major cities and retain control over many of the country’s rural districts. (RELATED: Afghanistan Security Forces Shrinking As Insurgents Mount Devastating Urban Attacks)

Resolute Support said Saturday it hoped the Taliban would honor the rest of its ceasefire and that the “pause leads to dialogue and progress on reconciliation.”

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