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Afghanistan Strikes Taliban Truce In Remote Area

Could such cease-fires cut the number of bomb attacks?
KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghanistan has struck a cease-fire deal with Taliban insurgents in a remote province, a presidential spokesman said, the first move of its kind amid an escalation of violence ahead of elections next month.

The truce was reached on July 25 in northwestern Badghis Province, near the border with Turkmenistan, spokesman Seyamak Herawi said on July 27.

The government wanted to make similar deals with the Taliban in other parts of the country in a bid to improve security for the August 20 presidential election, he said.

"As long as the cease-fire holds, the government does not have the intention to attack the Taliban [in Badghis]. And the Taliban can also take part in the elections," Herawi told Reuters.

Violence across Afghanistan has escalated since thousands of U.S. Marines began a major offensive in southern Helmand this month. Attacks have been less frequent in remote Badghis compared with Taliban strongholds in the south and the east.

The truce was arranged after mediation between Taliban leaders in Badghis and tribal elders and other influential figures in the province, Herawi said.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed not to attack election candidates in the province and to allow them to set up campaign offices.

President Hamid Karzai is a clear front-runner to win the election, Afghanistan's second direct vote for president.

The Helmand offensive is the first major operation under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and its militant Islamist allies and stabilize Afghanistan.