Ghani offers Taliban a new ceasefire

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared a provisional three-month ceasefire with the Taliban in a televised broadcast on Sunday, but said the truce would hold only if the insurgents reciprocated. The announcement followed a bloody week of fighting across Afghanistan which saw the Taliban launch a massive assault against the provincial capital Ghazni — just a two-hour drive from Kabul. An earlier, three-day ceasefire over the Id holiday in June — the first formal, nationwide ceasefire in the country since the 2001 U.S. invasion — saw thousands of insurgents pour into cities across Afghanistan, eating ice cream and posing for selfies with security forces. It spurred hopes that a new path was opening for possible peace talks in the country to the end the nearly 17-year-old war, but violence has surged in the weeks since. Meanwhile, Aid trickled into Ghazni on Sunday, residents and relief workers said, days after security forces pushed Taliban militants from the eastern Afghan city. Residents suffered food and water shortages along with rising prices for basic provisions after insurgents overran the city, torching buildings and destroying infrastructure in a battle that killed hundreds of people. Rice, oil, beans and tea were handed out after the first humanitarian convoy arrived in the Ghazni on Saturday, said Afghan Red Crescent regional head Mohammad Esmail. He added that the Red Crescent hoped to reach 800 families on Sunday, followed by another 1,200 on Monday. The UN estimates that at least 200 civilians died in Ghazni before Afghan forces backed by U.S. air strikes finally pushed Taliban fighters from the provincial capital on Wednesday.

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