Kabul on Wednesday sprung 100 low-risk Taliban prisoners as the first step in a peace process with the hardline extremists, as differences over the release question have complicated US-brokered attempts to end more than 18 years of hostilities in the country, Reuters reported.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan released 100 Taliban prisoners today based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence, as part of our efforts for peace,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council.
Officials said the same number of insurgents with similar profiles would be released Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse.
The releases come as President Ashraf Ghani faces a lingering political crisis, American fury over a floundering peace process and a growing coronavirus epidemic in Afghanistan.
Kabul “will release 100 Taliban prisoners today based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence as part of our efforts for peace and containment of COVID-19,” Faisal said on Twitter.
But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP that the step was inadequate.
A small Taliban delegation came to Kabul last week to discuss a comprehensive prisoner swap that was initially supposed to see 5,000 Taliban released in return for 1,000 Afghan security forces.
But they walked out of the “fruitless” meetings on Tuesday and returned to the southern province of Kandahar.
“Our stance has been very clear on prisoners swap,” Mujahid told the news agency. “Now, hundreds hundreds prisoners are released on a daily basis. This is not part of our process and it is unacceptable to us.”
When asked why Kabul was still freeing Taliban inmates even though the prisoner swap apparently collapsed, Faisal said: “We need to push the peace process forward.”
In February, the US signed a withdrawal deal with the Taliban that required Kabul — which was not a signatory to the accord — to take part in the prisoner exchange that was supposed to have led to “intra-Afghan” peace talks starting on March 10.
In the agreement, the US and other foreign forces are to withdraw from Afghanistan in 13 months.
Thursday 9 April 2020 19:27