Afghan government calls off ceasefire with Taliban

Ghani hopes to pursue peace talks with 'enemies'

By EHSAN POPALZAI AND LAURA SMITH-SPARK, CNN
Jonathan Ernst 2017 Getty Images

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) - The Afghan government has formally called off the unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban it had announced for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

President Ashraf Ghani, who called for the temporary ceasefire earlier this month, told reporters Saturday that Afghan security forces would be allowed to resume operations.

The government ceasefire, which was expected to last 10 days, was supported by NATO-led U.S. forces and reciprocated by the Taliban, which called for a three-day halt on attacks against "internal enemies." The Taliban resumed attacks on government targets on June 17.

Ghani said Saturday that the government was looking to engage in peace talks with the Taliban and hoped to convert it to a political group.

During the three-day truce, Afghan journalists, students and diplomats reported unusual scenes of peace between Taliban members and Afghan forces and civilians. Images showed handshakes and hugs in many parts of the country.

But the period also was marred by bloodshed, with dozens of lives lost in two suicide bombings in Nangahar province. ISIS, which was not party to any ceasefire, claimed responsibility for one of those attacks.

The United Nations Security Council condemned what it called "two heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks" and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

Ghani first spoke about the possibility of a ceasefire with the militant Islamist group in February, when he announced the Afghan government was willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a potential agreement.

"We're ready to restart talks about peace with Pakistan again and forget bitter experiences of the past and start a new chapter," he said.

The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan, with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law. The group controlled Afghanistan until its 2001 ouster by the U.S.-led coalition that invaded following the 9/11 attacks.

In recent years, a resurgent Taliban has taken control of significant swaths of the country and terrorized Afghans and foreigners. Brazen terrorist attacks have even shaken the resolve of those who live in the heavily secured capital, Kabul, and raised questions about the Afghan government's ability to protect the country.

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