Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appealed to the militants to lay down their arms for the Islamic holy month that began Friday, as the country battles the growing coronavirus pandemic.
But the Taliban’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted late Thursday to lambaste the government’s offer, citing ongoing disagreements over a potential peace process and a delayed prisoner exchange as reasons to keep fighting.
“Asking for ceasefire is not rational and convincing,” wrote Shaheen as he accused the government of putting prisoners’lives at risk during the outbreak.
Under a landmark US-Taliban deal signed earlier this year, the Afghan government and the insurgents were by now supposed to have concluded a prisoner swap and started talks aimed at bringing about a comprehensive ceasefire.
The latest round of bickering comes after dozens of Afghan security forces personnel were killed in a fresh wave of violence launched by the insurgents this week.The attacks have mostly been limited to rural areas and small towns. Under the US-Taliban deal, the insurgents have agreed not to attack cities.
American and other foreign forces have pledged to quit Afghanistan by July 2021 provided the Taliban stick to several security guarantees and hold talks with the government.
Ghani has been calling for a lasting ceasefire with the Taliban for years, only to be ignored by the increasingly emboldened insurgents.
The Taliban instead have mocked Ghani’s government, referring to them as “puppets” controlled by foreign powers, and have roundly refused to engage in peace talks as they intensify attacks on Afghan forces.
NATO urges Taliban to cut violence levels and join peace talks
The US-led NATO alliance called on Friday for Afghanistan’s Taliban militants to cut violence levels and join peace talks, saying prisoner releases should also be speeded up.
The Taliban have rejected an Afghan government call for a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, raising concerns about a peace process after Taliban and the United States struck a deal in February on the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces.
“The current level of violence caused by the Taliban is not acceptable,” alliance ambassadors in NATO’s North Atlantic Council said in a statement on the peace efforts.
“We welcome the establishment of an inclusive negotiating team to represent the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We call on the Taliban to enter negotiations with this team without further delay, which is considered a key element of the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” the NATO statement said.