Afghan Taliban frown at militants’ Eid ceasefire selfies

People take selfies with a Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. Picture: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – The Afghan Taliban are angry at their members swapping selfies with soldiers and government officials during their three-day ceasefire, a senior Taliban official said on Monday, after the militants roamed at will through cities before the truce ended.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Taliban official also said Pakistan had wanted the Taliban to include U.S. and other foreign troops in the ceasefire, but the Taliban’s leadership and supreme commander, ‎Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada, did not agree.

“Last night, an emergency meeting was called and all the commanders were informed and directed to take strict disciplinary action against all those Taliban members who visited citizens and took pictures with the Afghan authorities,” he told Reuters.

Some Taliban seen taking selfies w‎ith Afghan government forces and officials had been warned, the Taliban official said.

Both the Afghan government and the militants declared temporary ceasefires for the end-of-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr holiday, leading to fraternization between the two sides as militants emerged from their hideouts to enter towns and cities.

The government ceasefire did not include the Islamic State militant group and the Taliban did not include U.S.-led foreign forces in theirs.

The Taliban ceasefire ended on Sunday. The government extended its ceasefire with the Taliban, which had been due to end on Wednesday, June 20, by 10 days.

Another Taliban commander, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that some attacks had been planned in the southern Afghan province of Helmand where short clashes were reported, according to the spokesman for the Helmand governor.

Anti-war activists set off on a peace march last month, spending the fasting month crossing harsh, sun-baked countryside en route to Kabul where they arrived on Monday, their numbers swelling and ebbing at different points along the route.

Abdul Rahman Mangal, spokesman for the Maidan Wardak provincial government, next to Kabul, said the Taliban attacked two security checkpoints in the Saidabad district in the early hours of Monday which “left casualties”.

Clashes were also reported in Faryab in the northwest and Laghman, to the east of Kabul, and Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan and the scene of two bomb blasts over the weekend, one of which was claimed by Islamic State.

While many war-weary Afghans welcomed the ceasefires and the fraternization between the combatants, some have criticized the government ceasefire, which allowed the Taliban to flow into cities, though the militants said they were withdrawing.

The Taliban are fighting U.S.-led NATO forces combined under the Resolute Support mission, and Ghani’s U.S.-backed government to restore sharia, or Islamic law, after their ouster by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

But Afghanistan has been at war for four decades, ever since the Soviet invasion in 1979.