Taliban in western Afghanistan to cease fire ahead of election

July 27th, 2009 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Kabul, July 27 (DPA) Taliban militants in a western Afghan province have struck a ceasefire with the government and agreed not to disrupt the presidential election Aug 20, a presidential spokesman said Monday.
The truce was struck Saturday with local Taliban commanders in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province through mediation by local elders, said Siamak Herawi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamdi Karzai.

“Under this agreement, the Taliban commanders agreed to withdraw their forces from three areas in the district and hand over authority to the local elders,” Herawi said, adding that the government forces would not attack the militants as long as the truce held.

“The Taliban also agreed not to attack the election commission’s work in the province and let the presidential candidates open their campaign offices,” he said.

“There is no deadline for the ceasefire,” Herawi said. “We welcome it as long as it holds.”

The deal was the first move in a series of such efforts by the government to try to ensure security for election day, he said, adding, “This is the first place. We have plans to reach such agreements with other anti-government elements in other parts of the country.”

Taliban-led violence has intensified throughout the country with the advent of summer and as thousands of US reinforcements recently have joined the fight against the Islamist militants. Thousands of troops from the US, Britain and Canada are taking part in major anti-Taliban assaults in southern and eastern Afghanistan to provide a safer environment for the upcoming election.

About 40 candidates, including Karzai and two women, are standing in the race.

Although Karzai is widely seen to be the front-runner, intensified violence in the country’s southern and eastern regions, the main political power base for the incumbent, is likely to make it difficult for Karzai to secure more than 50 percent of the vote and win the first round.

Sources said Karzai’s government and his campaign team have been in contact with some of the Taliban commanders in the south in a bid to persuade the militants not to disrupt the elections in those areas.

Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah are the other leading candidates who could unseat Karzai in the country’s second direct vote for president.

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