Kabul, March 19 (IANS) Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said the Washington would like the Afghan government to begin the process of releasing Taliban prisoners as soon as possible in line with the historic peace agreement.
“No prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides,” Khalilzad said in a series of tweets on Wednesday as the Taliban were trying to press Washington to facilitate the process soon.
“Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides, the US understands,” TOLO News quoted Khalilzad as saying.
The US envoy noted that technical teams from both sides can work together and focus on steps to begin prisoner releases as soon as possible.
He added that “the Taliban commit that released prisoners will abide by the commitments made in the peace agreement and not return to the battlefield”.
“A violation will undermine the peace process. The time has come to move forward on prisoner releases,” Khalilzad added.
The US-Taliban deal signed in Qatar on February 29 calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners to open the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.
The deadline for the release was March 10.
President Ashraf Ghani has agreed to release 1,500 prisoners, gradually, ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations. But Taliban has opposed this plan leading to a delay in the talks.
This comes as a Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid this week posted a video showing their fighters in military training.
The group said the preparations were for removing barriers, but he did not provide any further details.