The Taliban announced its first ceasefire in Afghanistan since the 2001 US invasion on Saturday, with a three-day halt in hostilities against the country’s security forces that was greeted with relief by war-weary Afghans.
But the group warned the suspension of fighting for the first three days of Eid, the holiday that caps off Ramadan, did not extend to “foreign occupiers”, who would continue to be targeted by the militants.
The unexpected move came two days after the Afghan government’s own surprise announcement of a week-long halt to operations against the Taliban.
It is the first time in nearly 17 years of conflict that the militants have declared a ceasefire, albeit a limited one.
“All the mujahideen are directed to stop offensive operations against Afghan forces for the first three days of Eid-al-Fitr,” the Taliban said in a WhatsApp message to journalists.
But it added that “if the mujahideen are attacked we will strongly defend (ourselves)”.
The Taliban said “foreign occupiers are the exception” to the order sent to its fighters around the country.
“Our operations will continue against them, we will attack them wherever we see them,” it said.
Even a brief cessation of hostilities would bring welcome relief to civilians in the war-torn country, nearly two decades after the Taliban regime was toppled.
In recent years the resurgent militants, along with the Islamic State group, have stepped up their attacks on Kabul in particular, making it the deadliest place in the country for civilians.