The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said military operations against Islamic State (IS) militants will intensify during a temporary cease-fire announced by the Afghan government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on June 7 announced for the first time a unilateral cease-fire with the Taliban militant group, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month. Senior security forces said the allied Haqqani network will also be included in the truce, although that has not been confirmed by the government.
It was not immediately clear if the Taliban would honor the cease-fire.
The truce -- which will last from June 12 until around June 20 -- excludes other militant groups such as IS.
"[Operations against IS] will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of cease-fire as we focus on [IS]," U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the truce will allow forces that would otherwise be fighting the Taliban to be redeployed to take on the terror groups.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said it is likely the alliance will extend funding to Afghan security forces to 2024 at the upcoming summit of alliance leaders in July.
“NATO allies and partners aren’t just maintaining their contributions to our Resolute Support mission. They are increasing them,” he said.
“Based on our discussions today, I am confident that we will agree to extend funding to the Afghan security forces to 2024 at next month’s summit,” he added.
Stoltenberg praised the “outstanding job” being done by Afghan’s security forces, but added that “significant challenges remain” in the battle against insurgents.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been fighting Taliban extremists since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 drove them from power. IS and other terror groups have also begun operating in Afghanistan, often attacking mosque worshippers, government and security officials, journalists, and others.