Taliban Refuses To Extend Ceasefire Despite Pleas From Peace Activists And Afghan Elders

Elias Atienza | Contributor

The Afghan Taliban refused to extend June’s ceasefire despite pleas from Afghan elders and peace activists, Reuters reported on Monday.

The Afghan government had declared a ceasefire for the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, where Afghan soldiers and civilians interacted with Taliban insurgents in Kabul without orders to fight. The Taliban then resumed fighting after the three-day truce ended and called for activists not to join movements that “played” into the hands of U.S. and international forces that have been in Afghanistan since 2001.

“They are not speaking about the occupation or the withdrawal of foreigners,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. “Their objective is that we lay down our weapons and accept the regime imposed by the invaders.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has continued to uphold a unilateral ceasefire despite the continued fighting, and on June 20 ordered his forces to suspend offensive operations for 10 days. Fighting has continued, with 12 militants being killed on Monday, including a “key” Taliban commander, reported Xinhua News Agency. (RELATED: Taliban Fighters Launch Major Attack On Afghan Forces, Killing 30)

Afghan elders have been pleading with both the government and the Taliban to stop the fighting. Tribal elders in Jani Khel called for both groups to end the fighting in their district.

“We are so fed up with operations by government forces in our areas that trigger fighting for days,” said Malek Sakhto, one of the elders, said to Reuters. “We’re pleading with the government and the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire and stop killing each other and civilians.”

This comes as peace activists marched over 400 miles from Afghanistan’s Helmand province to Kabul calling for an end to the war. There, they have found a receptive audience from Ghani.

“I have already announced a ceasefire,” Ghani told activists June 19, according to Gandhara. “If the Taliban accept it, I am ready to announce a one-year ceasefire.”

However, the Taliban did not respond to these activists. The activists have turned their attention toward international forces to place more pressure on the Afghan government and the Taliban to end the fighting, reported Gandhara. The activists have also criticized the continued American and international presence in Afghanistan.

“What’s the benefit of their presence in Afghanistan?” activist Bismillah Watandost asked. “If they have come for peace and security for the Afghan people, what have they achieved during the past 17 years?”

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