(AFP) – Sep 20, 2009
KABUL — Afghan and foreign troops will cease offensive operations in the intensifying war against Taliban-led insurgents to observe the UN's International Day of Peace, the defence ministry said Sunday.
Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak has ordered his troops to remain on the defensive for Peace Day on Monday, and not to attack rebel positions unless attacked, his spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.
"The people of Afghanistan are more thirsty for peace than any other nation. They have experienced decades of war and they want peace now," Azimi said.
The directive follows a similar order from US General Stanley McChrystal, which falls short of a ceasefire by the more than 100,000 US and NATO troops he commands in an effort to quell the Taliban insurgency.
Troops will be on the defensive but "will not conduct offensive military operations on September 21 to observe the United Nations' International Day of Peace," McChrystal said.
"This is consistent with our intent to help the national army and police take the lead in protecting the Afghan people from the Taliban and other enemies of peace," he said in a recent statement.
The UN's International Day of Peace was created in 1981 and in 2002, September 21 was declared the permanent annual date for "commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples".
The Taliban have reportedly said their fighters will also remain on the defensive for peace day, but foreign forces in Afghanistan are sceptical the rebels will keep their word.
"The Taliban said they would not conduct any operations during Ramadan, but six Italian soldiers are dead and a lot of people have been killed in suicide bomb attacks across the country," an ISAF spokesman said.
A massive suicide car bomb attack on an ISAF convoy in Kabul on Thursday killed six Italians, whose bodies were repatriated to Rome Sunday, and at least 10 Afghans.
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