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Afghan Leader Declares Brief, Unilateral Cease-Fire in Taliban Fight

June 6, 2018

The commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., said his troops will honor the cease-fire. The 14,000 American troops under his command are largely involved in a NATO advisory mission, but they also carry out a robust campaign of airstrikes and smaller counterterrorism efforts. “We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” General Nicholson said in a statement.

If the Taliban halt attacks during the cease-fire, said Lisa Curtis, who leads Afghanistan policy at the National Security Council, it would “represent an unprecedented step forward in the peace process.”

“However, even if the Taliban does not reciprocate,” Ms. Curtis added, “this demonstration of the Afghan government’s seriousness about a peace process will illustrate to all stakeholders which party bears primary responsibility for perpetuating this war.”

The abruptness of Mr. Ghani’s announcement was likely to rattle his military units, which have been pinned down by the Taliban in some areas and, after 17 years of consistent fighting, have had little preparation for a cease-fire.

Some analysts feared that not enough thought had gone into how a cease-fire might play out at a time when the war has spread to nearly half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The presence of many militant groups makes the task much harder for a force stretched by daily fighting.

“Fighting is ongoing in 15 provinces, and the Afghan president announces the cease-fire,” said Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired Afghan general and military analyst.

“Unilateral cease-fires are not helpful,” Mr. Amarkhel said. “Don’t forget that already the Afghan Army isn’t attacking — it is defending. It will confuse the Afghan forces, the Taliban will attack and gain more, and it will affect the morale of the Afghan forces.”