Kabul, Feb 21 (IANS) The release of Taliban prisoners before the start of intra-Afghan talks was not possible, although the topic will be one of the main focus points during the discussions, a government spokesman said here.
“When we, as the government of Afghanistan, enter into negotiations with the Taliban and demand the release of their prisoners, it will naturally be discussed, and will take into account the laws and interests of our people and will be based on the consensus that will arise at that stage,” TOLO News quoted Sediq Sediqqi, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, as saying on Thursday.
The development comes after members of the Taliban’s office in Qatar said that the militant group and the US have reached an agreement in which “5,000 Taliban prisoners from Afghan government jails will be released, and 1,000 government forces prisoners will be released by the Taliban” before the intra-Afghan talks begin.
Meanwhile, Mawlana Jalaluddin Shinwari, a former Taliban member, said that if the process of releasing Taliban prisoners does not begin before the intra-Afghan talks, it will face a deadlock.
“If prisoners are not released, and the intra-Afghan dialogue is centred on the ‘Presidential Palace,’ I do not think the talks will begin,” said Shinwari.
On February 14, the US and the Taliban agreed on a week-long reduction of violence that could pave the way for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The truce marked a milestone in efforts to end the 18 years of US military presence in Afghanistan, and could pave the way for an agreement by the end of this month on the withdrawal.
The peace agreement, according to the US official, would call for a nationwide ceasefire; negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban; and a commitment from the Taliban not to harbour terrorist groups, while setting a timetable for the troops withdrawal.
Afghanistan has been gripped by a bloody war since in 2001 when a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime, which since then has fought to regain control of the country, where it currently dominates large territories.