The Chief Executive of the Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah said that the nation had welcomed the decision by the Taliban group leadership for a ceasefire during the Eid-al-Fitr.
Abdullah reacted at Taliban’s ceasefire announcement as he was speaking during the Council of Ministers meeting in Kabul yesterday.
Welcoming the Taliban announcement regarding the ceasefire, Abdullah said the Afghan people welcome the positive response by the Taliban group.
This comes as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had earlier said “We welcome the three days ceasefire announced by the Taliban starting on the first day of Eid. This comes following the bold decision by the Islamic republic of Afghanistan to cease the fight for a period of time,” President Ghani said in a statement.
He also thanked the international partners of Afghanistan, including US, UK, EU and the Islamic Conference and the Afghan people for the support regarding the decision for ceasefire.
The Taliban group announced earlier on Saturday that the leadership of the group had decided to declared ceasefire during the three days of Eid-al-Fitr. According to their statement, during these three days no attack will be carried out on Afghan forces.
Earlier on Thursday last week, President Ghani announced a ceasefire with the Taliban group and said the Afghan forces would not conduct offensive operations against the group from 27th of the holy month of Ramadan until the 5th day of Eid.
Fifteen security personnel have been killed in a Taliban attack in the Qala-i-Zal district of northern Kunduz province, officials said on Monday.
District chief Safdar Haidar told Pajhwok Afghan News the militants launched a coordinated attack on a security check-post in the Aqtepa area of the district late on Sunday night.
He said five Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and 10 policemen were killed in the assault.
Aminullah Aideen, a member of the provincial council, confirmed the attack and casualties. He said the militants also took away two tanks of the security forces.
Allah Berdi, a resident of the area, said gunfire was heard all night long. He claimed 18 security personnel manning the check-post were killed.
At least 12 people were killed and 31 wounded when a suicide attacker blew himself up outside the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development building in Kabul on Monday, officials said, as employees were leaving their offices early for Ramadan.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, the group’s AMAQ news agency says.
Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said at least 12 people were killed and 31 wounded in the explosion that happened at the main gate of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.
Employees were gathered at the entrance of the compound waiting for a bus to take them home when the suicide bomber blew himself up among the crowd, said the ministry spokesman Faridoon Azhand, who was inside the building at the time.
“Unfortunately we have lost some colleagues,” Azhand told AFP.
Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai confirmed at least 12 people had been killed, including women, and another 20 wounded.
Employees were leaving their offices at 1:00 pm due to the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims fast from dawn to dust, when the suicide attacker struck.
Employees inside the ministry at the time of the attack confirmed hearing a blast.
“An explosion happened at the exit gate of the ministry,” Daud Naimi, director of the communications department at the ministry, told AFP.
“I was in my office when I heard a big blast,” another employee told AFP.
“Most of my colleagues were leaving for the day to go home. I am worried about my colleagues. We are told to stay inside for now.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced security forces would halt hostilities with the Taliban for a week.
It would last from the “27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr”, he said, indicating it could run from June 12-19.
The Taliban said Saturday their fighters would stop attacking Afghan security forces, but only for the first three days of Eid, the holiday capping Ramadan.
It is the first time the militants have agreed to suspend fighting since the 2001 US invasion, and the move was largely welcomed by war-weary Afghans.
Afghan security forces and the Taliban have vowed to retaliate if attacked during the ceasefire.
The militants have also said their ceasefire does not extend to US-led NATO forces, while Kabul said operations against foreign fighters including the Islamic State group will continue.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in China, on Sunday called Afghanistan an unfortunate example of the effects of terrorism.
“I hope the brave steps towards peace taken by President Ghani will be respected by all in the region," Modi was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
The Indian leader was referring to the Afghan government's surprise announcement of a week-long ceasefire with the Taliban for Eid.
India would play an important role within the contact group that was operating to help Afghanistan, promised the prime minister, who was welcomed by China's President Xi Jinping.
He claimed his country -- playing an effective role in promoting regional connectivity -- had been part of several projects, including the Chabahar port in Iran. He called for enhancing people-to-people interaction.
In his speech, Modi suggested the SCO summit should have a fixed goal and look to achieving that. He floated the idea of forming a committee that worked to achieve a fixed goal in a time-bound framework.
The Afghan forces have confiscated a vehicle carrying at least 7800 kgs of Ammonium Nitrate during an operation in Momand Dara district of Nangarhar.
The provincial government media office in a statement said the vehicle was seized in Torkham Township by the operatives of the National Directorate of Security.
The statement further added that the Ammonium Nitrate was placed in 156 sacks and were hidden under the vegetables.
According to the provincial government, the militants had imported the Ammonium Nitrate from Pakistan and were looking to use them in their future attacks.
The anti-government armed militant groups frequently use explosives materials for the roadside bombings and car bombings to target the government staff and security personnel.
However, in majority of such incidents the ordinary civilians are killed besides such bombings incur casualties to the security personnel and in some cases the Taliban militants themselves are killed or wounded.
A total of 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured – were documented in the 2017 Annual Report released last month by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office.
The report further added that the high number of casualties to the civilians were inflicted by suicide bombings and other attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Pakistan said on Sunday it was playing a sincere role in efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan -- a common objective for the neighbors.
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, addressing the SCO Summit in Qingdao, China, said Pakistan welcomed President Ashraf Ghani’s initiatives for peace with the Taliban.
Radio Pakistan quoted Hussain as calling a ceasefire in Afghanistan a positive sign for regional peace. Pakistan and Afghanistan were working on a peace strategy on a bilateral basis, he said.
He suggested the establishment of a development fund to eliminate terrorism and extremism. He also stressed capacity-building and skill development of youth of member states.
Hussain claimed his country had rendered unprecedented sacrifices in the war on terror, asking the global community to stand united in meeting common challenges.
Members of the Upper House of Parliament on Sunday welcomed the announcement of temporary ceasefire by the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgent group, urging the government to use the opportunity for lasting peace and stability in the country.
Senators also called on the Afghan security forces to be on alert during the ceasefire period to respond to any possible attacks.
“I welcome the announcement of the ceasefire and this must become a permanent ceasefire. The security forces must remain vigilant because other terrorist groups may use the opportunity,” said Senator Najiba Hussaini.
“Taliban must stop killing the people. The religious scholars issued the Fatwa that the ongoing war is illegitimate based on Islamic teachings and they fulfilled their responsibilities. The scholars are neither the slave of Americans nor the slave of any other western country,” said senator Abdullah Qarluq.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Alam Izadyar Deputy Speaker of the Senate House said the terrorists’ supporters would never win the ongoing war.
“The ceasefire must be respected by both sides. Taliban’s supporters must understand that fighting is not the solution. They should try to reach to their goals through peace and negotiation while respecting the national interest of Afghanistan as well,” said Izadyar.
In addition, Fazel Hadi Muslimyar, Speaker of the Senate House, called the ceasefire an opportunity to be used for ending the war.
“We welcome the ceasefire by both sides and it must be a permanent ceasefire. The killing of Muslims must be stopped. The ceasefire is only with the Taliban not with other groups so the security forces must be prepared,” said Muslimyar.
Ukraine has voiced its willingness to contribute more troops to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said on Saturday the country would triple the number of its personnel in the framework of the training mission.
At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with countries contributing troops to Resolute Support, he said the Ukrainian forces had been accomplishing tasks in Afghanistan for 11 years.
“We will continue to participate in this operation. We are ready to … triple our personnel," the minister was quoted as saying by Interfax.
He said the Ukrainians expressed condolences to families of fallen NATO military and civil personnel, as well as the Afghan people fighting killed by terrorists.
"See, this is our school. You can see where the girls are."
Sixteen-year-old Mahnoz Aliyar is one of the 14,000 students of Kabul's Sayedul Shohada school. The road leading up to the school gate is not paved and potholes full of muddy water make it difficult to navigate. Conditions are little better inside the gates.
Mahnoz points to a big open field.
"You see? We don't have any classrooms, we don't have any buildings, and we don't have enough facilities for the girls."
Some classes are held under makeshift tents; others are held out in the open, with nothing to buffer the girls from the elements of Afghanistan's punishing summers and bitter winters.
While the girls persevere through rain, hail or shine, boys attend classes inside several buildings on the school grounds.
Still, the fact that girls are attending school is a huge improvement from the days of Taliban rule, when girls and women were banned from getting an education.
Thanks largely to the efforts of international donors who have spent billions of dollars rebuilding the Afghan education system, millions of girls have returned to school since the Taliban fell in 2001.
However, their exact numbers are unknown.
'He was saying that school is not good for girls'
A 2017 World Bank report suggests that as many as 66 percent of Afghanistan's girls are not in school. And those who are enrolled still struggle to get an education. They have to fight against a society that has long discouraged them, a corrupt system and a lack of proper facilities that disadvantages them.
Mahnoz has been a student at Sayedul Shohada since the first grade. She's now in grade 11 and hopes to attend the American University in Kabul after she graduates next year.
"I want to learn there. After that, I want to get a job. After that, I plan to go into politics. I want to go into politics and I want to supply everything for the girls. That's my wish."
But it will take more than her own fierce determination if Mahnoz is to achieve her goals.
First, she needs her country to be stable. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, instability is one of the main reasons why so many girls are out of school. Families are less likely to send girls to school in insecure conditions than boys.
Even in the relative security of their neighborhood, the Dascht-e-Barchi district of west Kabul, Mahnoz's father, Allahdad, says he worries about Mahnoz and her younger sister every day when they make the half-hour walk to school. He has reason to be worried - a recent bomb blast just two kilometers from their school killed 60 people.
In addition to safety concerns, cultural norms still dictate many girls' lives.
Allahdad was at first reluctant to allow Mahnoz to go to school. But she's managed to convince him otherwise.
"Before he was saying ... that school is not good for girls," she recalls. "And the girls should work in the home, cleaning, washing, these things. But right now, he is OK. I am always saying to him the world has changed. And we should learn knowledge, we should go to school."
Bribing their way into teaching jobs
If the struggle to get to school is one hurdle, girls face even more obstacles once they are enrolled.
An independent review of corruption in the education system revealed that the poor quality of education leads many parents to pull their daughters out of school.
Muzaffar Shah, the former director of Afghanistan's anti-corruption agency, says that's because teaching jobs often go to those who can afford to bribe their way into jobs rather than those who are most qualified.
"Our findings show that there was more discrimination against women," he says.
An estimated 75 percent of teaching graduates are unemployed, with most of them being women who do not have those connections or cannot afford to pay a bribe.
Getting more female teachers into classrooms could mean more families would be willing to send their daughters to school - many families will not accept men teaching their girls.
There was more discrimination against women. Males had more access to get those [teaching] jobs - either through recommendations, through knowing people, through knowing influential people. And this was not the case for females.
'If there are ghost schools, who gets the money?'
The anti-corruption report also found that most schools still lack basic infrastructure, despite the billions of dollars international donors have invested in construction and rehabilitation of school buildings. Most, according to the report, are still incomplete.
"Our findings show that literally money was taken in cash to remote parts of Afghanistan by the trustees, and we had information that the money did not make it to the right people," Shah explains.
Back at Sayedul Shohada, Aqeela Tavakoli, the principal of the girls' school, explains that Japanese donors built two new buildings for the girls five years ago. But the school shura, or local council, decided to give those buildings to the boys.
Aqeela points to a large patch of ground near one of the new buildings and says: "That is for the girls, but no one has come to build a school."
Because of the deteriorating security climate in Afghanistan, most donors can't get out of their embassy compounds to monitor the projects they support. That lack of oversight, Muzaffar Shah says, can often drive corruption.
"The schools are located in areas which are insecure. It's hard to know if those schools are there or not - if there are ghost teachers, if there are ghost schools, if there are ghost principals, who gets the money?"
'We've learned hard lessons'
Jeff Cohen, the deputy mission director for the largest donor, USAID, acknowledges that his government could have done better.
"Just because as a donor, you want to build a school in this place, doesn't mean it's the right school to build," he says. "I think we've learned lessons - hard lessons. We've tried to do a lot very quickly. It's still a process. Self-reliance is a long-term goal," says Cohen.
Self-reliance is something Mahnoz has learned in her 16 years. Asked whether sometimes it all just seems too hard, a fiery determination flashes in her big brown eyes.
"If I face a problem ... I am saying to myself, that 'Mahnoz, this situation is not good. You have to change this situation.' And just by starting you can change first your family, then your neighborhood, and after that ... you can serve your people."
Thirteen policemen have been killed and four others injured in the Taliban attack in the Arghandab district of southern Kandahar province, local security source said on Sunday.
Among the dead, were two Afghan Local Police (ALP) commanders, the source said, adding the Taliban also suffered casualties in the firefight.
Police Spokesman Zia Durrani told Pajhwok Afghan News the Taliban stormed security forces check-posts in the Tangari locality on Saturday evening.
He said six policemen, including ALP men were killed and three other injured.
Taliban Spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed 17 local policemen were killed, one check-post captured in the Nagahan locality.
But security officials rejected the Taliban claim. In Kandahar the Taliban attacks has increased following raise in the temperature.
Earlier, 25 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed, 10 injured and eight others went missing in the Taliban attack.