The Taliban announced Saturday its first cease-fire in Afghanistan. Afghan security officials are pictured securing the road leading to the venue of the Afghan Ulema Council meeting after a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday. Photo by EPA-EFE/Jawad Jalali
June 9 (UPI) -- The Taliban announced Saturday its first cease-fire against Afghan forces since the war began in 2001 to observe the three-day Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday to celebrate the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting, Ramadan. The holiday starts in mid-June, but since the time depends on the lunar cycle the timing could change based on crescent moon sightings. The festival lasts up to three days.
For the festival, Taliban fighters "are instructed to stop their offensive operations against domestic opposition," the militant group said in a statement to the New York Times, referring to Afghan forces.
However, U.S.-led NATO forces are exempt from the ceasefire, with the Taliban saying they would continue to attack "foreign invaders," the Wall Street Journal reported.
The proposed cease-fire offers Afghanistan's High Peace Council hope for negotiating peace with the Taliban.
"Our beloved nation is thirsty for peace, so for the sake of the Afghan people we hope for more trust-building efforts," council spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri told the Journal.
The announcement comes two days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani instructed Afghan forces in a video message to halt operations between Tuesday and June 21.
In late February, Ghani also offered the Taliban a chance to be recognized as a legitimate political party and withdraw their names from international sanctions lists in exchange for peace.
Still, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Times that Saturday's announcement of Taliban cease-fire was unrelated to the government's actions.
"The reason for announcing it this time is that, after the Kabul administration announced theirs, the people were concerned that our Mujahedeen might continue operations and it might disturb their Eid celebrations," Mujahid said. "We wanted them to be confident that we also won't do any operations. But our announcement is unrelated to the Kabul administration's."