Afghan forces kill 10 Taliban as ceasefire is announced

The 10 included five Pakistanis killed in the clash in the eastern province of Nangarhar,

Afghan Army Chief of Staff, General Sharif Yaftali, looks on as he speaks during a press conference in Kabul on 7 June 2018. Picture: AFP

KABUL - Afghan security forces killed 10 Taliban militants as a ceasefire announced by the president took effect, an official said on Friday, and security forces said they would respond if attacked.

The 10 included five Pakistanis killed in the clash in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the official said, adding, “We finished the operation and will now follow the ceasefire plan.”

Four people were killed and five wounded by unidentified gunmen in a separate attack on a lawmaker’s Nangarhar home on Friday. The lawmaker was not at home at the time.

The ceasefire was welcomed by the United Nations, the United States and NATO, but some independent analysts expressed scepticism, with one diplomat calling it a “one-sided love story” as the Taliban, who have yet to respond, are deemed unlikely to reciprocate.

Some diplomats said it came as a bit of a surprise, showing that at one level the government wanted intensified air strikes, but on another, it was offering an olive branch.

Security officials said they would suspend operations against the Taliban in line with the ceasefire but would respond firmly if attacked.

President Ashraf Ghani announced for the first time an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban coinciding with Eid, the end of the Muslim fasting month, but excluding other militant groups, such as Islamic State.

“It is not a laying down of arms,” a senior official told Reuters.

The ceasefire followed a meeting of Islamic clerics this week that declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings, one of which, claimed by Islamic State (IS), killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in Kabul.

The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation, saying it would last until June 20.

The United States wants to step up military operations against Islamic State militants in Nangarhar during the ceasefire, the top US general in Afghanistan said on Friday.

“[Operations against IS] will continue, in fact, will be even intensified, during this period of ceasefire, as we focus on ISIS,” General John Nicholson, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Brussels.