Taliban end partial truce as Afghan violence resumes
KABUL: A deadly blast shattered a period of relative calm in Afghanistan on Monday and the Taliban ordered fighters to resume operations against Afghan forces just two days after signing a deal with Washington aimed at ushering in peace.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack at a football ground in Khost in eastern Afghanistan, where three brothers were killed, officials told AFP.
The blast occurred around the same time the Taliban ordered fighters to recommence attacks against Afghan army and police forces, apparently ending an official "reduction in violence" that had seen a dramatic drop in bloodshed and given Afghans a welcome taste of peace.
The partial truce between the US, the insurgents and Afghan forces lasted for the week running up to the signing of the US-Taliban accord in Doha on Saturday, and was extended over the weekend.
"The reduction in violence… has ended now and our operations will continue as normal," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
"As per the (US-Taliban) agreement, our mujahideen will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces."
The Taliban's military commission circulated instructions for fighters to resume operations, according to a document that an insurgent provided to AFP.
Soon after, an Afghan army commander told AFP that the Taliban were attacking army positions in the northwest province of Badghis. At least one soldier was killed. - AFP
President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday he would continue the partial truce at least until talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban kick off, supposedly on March 10, though he angered the militants by rejecting a prisoner swap component in the deal.
Fawad Aman, a defence ministry spokesman, said Monday the government was "checking to see if (the truce) had ended".
Washington has said it expected the Taliban to maintain the reduction of violence ahead of the launch of intra-Afghan talks, slated to take place in Oslo. "The reduction in violence was a confidence builder. We're very serious about our obligations and we expect the Taliban will be serious about their obligations," US Forces-Afghanistan commander General Scott Miller said late Monday.
"The United States has been very clear about our expectations -- the violence must remain low."
The US has previously said it would defend Afghan partners if they come under attack.
The Doha deal includes a commitment to swap 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government in return for 1,000 captives, but Ghani said the US had no authority to negotiate such an exchange.
"Ghani's stand shows that the Americans hadn't done the groundwork before signing the agreement," a Taliban source in Pakistan said. - AFP