By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: The U.S. has ceased offensive military operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban in accordance with an agreement to reduce violence ahead of a possible peace deal, the top U.S. military commander announced here Saturday.
Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller told reporters in Kabul “our operations are defensive at this point, we stopped our offensive operations as part of our obligations, but we remain committed to defend our forces.”
Standing beside the Afghan acting ministers of interior and defense, Miller described the reduction in violence as a “trial period” during which U.S. and Afghan government forces reserve the right to defend themselves if attacked.
“This is a conditional effort. It’s a trial period, we are all looking at this to see that all sides are able to meet their obligations,” he said.
The reduction in violence officially began early Saturday morning just after midnight and is set to last a week. If it holds the United States and the Taliban have said they will sign a peace deal at the end of the month.
But even during the first hours after the agreement went into effect, local security forces reported a number of clashes between government and Taliban forces.
Acting defense minister Asadullah Khalid said overall violence has reduced since the agreement went into effect. He said the attacks that have occurred “are not serious, (except) for one attack in Balkh.”
He said Afghan forces have the right to defend themselves. “We are working to find out its cause,” he added referring to the Balkh attack. “Maybe the message was not sent to them (the Taliban) on time or whatever the cause may be, it will become clear.”
Miller did not address the specific overnight incidents but said the purpose of the week-long near ceasefire was “about observable trends showing a reduction in violence.” He added that he’s “confident that we will be able to monitor what are the levels of violence and what are the trend lines of violence.”
Monitoring of the situation in Afghanistan over the next week will be carried out by joint U.S.-Afghan teams. And the U.S. military will communicate with the Taliban “through a military communications channel in Doha,” to determine the causes and perpetrators of attacks.