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Taliban announce cease-fire over Eid holiday for 1st time

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For the festival, Taliban fighters "are instructed to stop their offensive operations against domestic opposition", the militant group's statement said, referring to Afghan forces.

"I don't think the Haqqani Network will be on board (with the ceasefire)", a foreign diplomat in Kabul told AFP.

The surprise move by the government came days after a gathering of Afghanistan's top religious leaders in the capital, Kabul, issued a fatwa - a religious edict issued by an expert in Islamic law - against suicide bombings and attacks.

The ceasefire from the Afghan government's side is applicable from 27th of Ramadan, June 12, to the fifth of Eid-al-Fitr, June 19.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has led worldwide security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003.

The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban and Ghani endorsed the recommendation.

Foreign combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014.

The conflict has been at a stalemate for several years, and NATO's best chances of leaving lie in the Taliban agreeing to peace talks and eventually joining the government.

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"You can't end 40 years of war in a few days, but this is definitely the best chance for a peace process since at least since the USA surge" of troops under President Barack Obama in 2010-2011, said Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon and State Department official who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this could, for example, allow the U.S.to partially shift the focus of aerial surveillance from the Taliban to Daesh fighters as well as al-Qaida extremists, who remain a threat 17 years after the USA invaded. However, it insisted that attacks on foreign forces should continue.

Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among options including new elections involving the militants and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that past year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 civilians.

This comes as the local officials in Herat province said at least 17 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces lost their lives in a similar attack in Zawal district late on Friday night.

Provincial police spokesman Enhamuddin Rahmani confirmed the death toll and said eight Taliban fighters were also killed.

Provincial council member Asadullah Sadat told dpa that 23 local policemen were killed as three check posts were stormed in Qala-e-Zal.

This will be a first such project in the war-torn country where China, while trying to expand its influence, has tacitly backed Pakistan, which has been accused by Afghanistan and the United States of backing the Taliban and its most violent attacks in the country destabilising any attempts to restore peace.

Taliban now controls 103 out of a total 107 villages in Qala-e-Zal district, according to both officials.

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