PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban are considering announcing a ceasefire during next week’s Eid holiday, despite heavy fighting seen over recent days in the central Afghan city of Ghazni, two senior Taliban officials said.
They said no decision had been taken but senior leaders would meet either on Tuesday evening or Wednesday to discuss the option, which was being pushed by some Muslim states and other parties with good relations to the movement.
If agreed, it may be announced in Ghazni province, where the Taliban say they control most of the districts around the provincial capital.
Prior to the fighting in Ghazni, which has killed and wounded hundreds, there had been strong hopes of a repeat of the three-day truce during the Eid-al Fitr holiday in June, the most concrete sign of progress toward peace since talks between the government and Taliban broke down in 2015.
The government said last month it was considering offering a ceasefire during Eid-al Adha, the annual feast of sacrifice, which begins next week but has so far not confirmed the offer and there has been no response from the Taliban.
“Our friends are advising us that we should announce a four-day ceasefire for the upcoming Eid-al Azha so that the people of Afghanistan can peacefully celebrate their Eid like they did two months ago,” one of the Taliban officials said.
“As usual there would be divided opinion on a ceasefire like we faced last time during Eid-al Fitr but our supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada would then play his role and would either announce the ceasefire or may ask the fighters to continue their fight,” said the official, a member of the shura, or leadership council.
Another Taliban leader said he hoped their leadership might announce a ceasefire as last time it had helped win hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan, with unarmed fighters and soldiers seen mingling on the streets of Kabul and other cities.
“The demand is for one week but our leadership may announce four days of ceasefire to enable the Afghan people to buy sacrificial animals and celebrate Eid-ul-Azha in a peaceful environment,” he said.
Asked who the “friends” were, the first official said the Taliban had friends and allies in many parts of the world.
In January, President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban peace talks without conditions and the United States has dropped its previous refusal to talk to the Taliban, saying it would be willing to participate in an Afghan-led process.
Taliban officials say they have spoken directly to the top U.S. official on Afghanistan and Pakistan in Qatar, where the Taliban maintains a political office and a delegation traveled to Uzbekistan this month to discuss issues including peace.
(This version of the story refiles to correct Taliban leader’s first name, paragraph seven.)
Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Richard Balmforth