Kabul, Afghanistan: After weeks of deadly fighting, the warring Taliban and the Afghan government agreed to a three-day truce on Thursday as the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr.
The cease-fire, proposed by militants and accepted by President Ashraf Ghani, would provide Afghans with some relief as they celebrate the Muslim festival with friends and relatives.
Since the United States failed to meet a May 1 deadline set by the Taliban last year to withdraw all of its troops, violence has increased in the region.
If the truce continues, it will be just the fourth time in the conflict’s nearly 20-year history that combat has come to a halt.
Early on Thursday, Afghan men, women, and children flocked to local mosques or gathered in open spaces across the country to give morning prayers, marking the start of Eid celebrations that would last until Saturday.
Security forces were stationed at several famous mosques in Kabul’s capital, frisking worshippers as they arrived for morning prayers.
“We want a permanent ceasefire. That will make us happier, as many more lives will be saved,” said Amir Jan Sulaimankhil, a resident from Nangarhar province.
Ghani used his annual Eid speech to call on the Taliban to commit to a long-term cease-fire now that foreign forces are leaving Afghanistan.
The nearly two-decade-old war, which has seen a resurgent Taliban take control of vast swaths of the region, has killed tens of thousands of Afghans and displaced millions.
The militants and the Afghan government began peace talks in September of last year, but amid international attempts to jump-start the talks, progress has stalled.
Ceasefires have largely held in the past, in what is generally believed to be an attempt by the Taliban leadership to demonstrate that it has firm influence over the various groups that make up the hardline movement across the country.
“He (Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada) wants to show that he is the owner of the war and peace,” said Afghan political analyst Fawad Kochai, based in Kabul.
There were no immediate reports of any ceasefire violations.
‘I have no plans to travel’
By September 11, the United States and NATO have promised to withdraw their troops, leaving Afghan forces to defend themselves and protect the vulnerable population.
Although the militants have resisted attacking American troops, they have increased their attacks on Afghan security forces.
Several provinces have been rattled by violence in recent weeks, and rebels captured a district near the capital on Tuesday.
On Saturday, a series of explosions outside a girls’ school in the capital killed more than 50 people, the majority of whom were teenage girls.
Officials pointed the finger at the Taliban, who denied any involvement.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has stated that it will continue to assist Afghanistan.
“Let me assure you that we have no plans to go anywhere. We intend to stay the course and work with all of you,” said the head of UNAMA Deborah Lyons in a statement to mark Eid
COVER IMAGE IS REPRESENTATIVE VIA UNSPLASH.