President Ashraf Ghani declared Saturday that he was ending a unilateral cease fire with the Taliban, after insurgent attacks killed dozens of Afghan forces across the country last week.
“The cease fire is over,” he told reporters in the presidential palace, saying he was ordering Afghan defense and security forces to restart operations for the first time since he announced an unprecedented unilateral truce with the Taliban in early June.
But the president said the door to negotiations will remain open, and he asked the Taliban to join a peace process. So far, the militant group has refused to talk with the Kabul government, disparaging it as a “puppet” regime and demanding direct talks with the United States.
Although insurgent leaders rejected Ghani’s invitation to extend the cease fire after it ended June 17, the president said the three-day mutual truce had been “98 percent successful” and that the government is ready to extend it any time the “Taliban are ready.”
The brief truce, which coincided with the three-day Eid holiday marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month, was observed strictly by both sides in the 17-year civil conflict and was marked by an outpouring of emotional celebration among civilians, Afghan forces and Taliban fighters.
The unexpected success of the cease fire, in which thousands of Taliban fighters flooded cities and towns and mingled cordially with others, has generated widespread hopes among both Afghans and foreign officials supporting the Ghani government that the Taliban may be willing to engage in some form of talks after many months of refusing to do so.
The truce also invigorated a nascent pro-peace movement among Afghans, who have held marches, rallies and vigils calling for an end to the violence. More than 100 peace marchers walked several hundred miles from southern Helmand province to Kabul during the truce.
Ghani immediately offered to extend the original cease fire as soon as it ended, but the Taliban declined and have said nothing publicly about the issue since — instead actively ramping up attacks in numerous provinces. Insurgents intensified attacks on police and army posts, leaving nearly 100 soldiers and police officers dead, according to Afghan media reports.
The government truce did not extend to the Islamic State, a foreign-based Sunni Islamic militia, and other foreign terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. During the cease fire, the Islamic State claimed it carried out two separate deadly attacks on gatherings of Taliban, civilians and Afghan forces celebrating in eastern Nangahar province.
A spokesman for the ministry of defense said Saturday that the government truce extension had ended at midnight and that military operations were being launched in 10 provinces.
“We will continue our offensive against the elements who are posing threat to our people,” he said.