2000 Taliban Prisoners to be Released, pledges Afghan President.
By Sukanya Sengupta,
Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president decided to release upto 2,000 Taliban prisioners as a ‘goodwill gesture’ as the armed group made an announcement of a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations. Sediq Sediqqi, Ghani’s spokesperson said that this move was made for ensuring the success of the peace process. The ceasefire appears to be maintained as there were no news of the Taliban and Afghan forces clashing by the end of the 1st day on Sunday.
The government decided to negotiate with the Taliban and the negotiations will be headed by Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s ex-rival. Abdullah and Ghani signed a power-sharing deal last week which ended a months-long political crisis.
US-Taliban signed an agreement in Doha, Qatar in February. According to the agreement, the Afghan government was to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners and in return the Taliban agreed to free 1,000 Afghan security personnel. This is a ‘confidence building measure’ before the long awaited peace talks between the government and the armed group could be undertaken.
Before this announcement came on Sunday, Afghanistan had already released 1,000 prisoners and in return the Taliban returned roughly 300 military personnel. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson said that the process of releasing 5000 prisoners according to the US-Taliban agreement should be completed so that the obstacles standing in the way of intra-Afghan negotiations can be removed.
The Doha agreement set the stage for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after more than 18 years. Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative to Afghanistan said that the ceasefire was an enormous opportunity and that US will uphold its part of the deal. Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State said that the Taliban should adhere to its commitment not to allow released Talibani prisoners to return to the battlefield. He also requested that after Eid the peace should be maintained.
US under Donald Trump are trying hard to build up negotiations between the Afghan government and Talibani forces and bring peace to this troubled region. Analysts however, suspect that this agreement has emboldened the Taliban. Kabul’s war weary citizens have expressed relief after this three-day ceasefire was announced. A similar peace truce was announced in 2018 and during the truce period fighters from opposite sides took selfies and embraced one another.