Afghan President Ashraf Ghani started a process of releasing up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill on Sunday after the insurgents proposed a surprising ceasefire during the Eid holiday.
Ghani also said the government is ready to conduct peace talks with the Taliban after accepting its offer of a three-day ceasefire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which starts on Sunday and marks the end of Ramadan Muslim fasting month.
The decision to release the prisoners was a “gesture of goodwill” and was made “to ensure the success of the peace process,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.
Ghani said the previous Sunday that he would speed up the Taliban inmate release process.
A US-Taliban agreement signed in February stipulated that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the insurgents would free around 1,000 Afghan security forces.
The exchange of prisoners is seen as a confidence-building step before the long-awaited peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
Before the announcement on Sunday, Kabul had already released around 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents released around 300 members of the Afghan security forces.
The insurgents said they were committed to free prisoners, but reminded Kabul that the deal was to release “5,000” of its members, as agreed with the US in Doha.
“This process should be completed to remove the barriers to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations,” said a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, on Twitter.
Ghani said a government delegation was “ready to start the peace talks immediately.”
Government negotiators were led by Ghani’s former bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah after the two signed a power-sharing agreement last week that ended a months-long political crisis.
– Liberated Taliban must not fight –
The Taliban have repeatedly mocked members of the Ghani government and called them “puppets” controlled by foreign powers.
The militants’ ceasefire offer comes just a few days after leader Haibatullah Akhundzada called on Washington to stop the opportunity offered by the agreement with the United States, which creates the conditions for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country after more than 18 years miss”.
The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered the deal, said on Twitter on Saturday that the ceasefire was “a significant opportunity not to be missed” while promising that the United States would “contribute to.” Help “.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also welcomed the ceasefire, but said in a statement on Sunday that he expected “the Taliban to honor its commitment to prevent released prisoners from returning to the game.”
He also urged the two sides to avoid escalating violence after the oath.
The government of US President Donald Trump is committed to ending America’s longest war. To withdraw foreign forces, US officials have urged the Taliban and leaders to hold peace talks.
However, analysts say the Taliban have been encouraged by the agreement with the U.S. and Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since its signing that 420 civilians were killed and 906 injured.
– war tired –
Khalilzad has claimed that the insurgents have maintained their end of the deal by not attacking the coalition forces, even if recent violence has violated the spirit of the agreement.
His comments came after an attack on a maternity home in Kabul that killed dozens – including mothers and young children – and a suicide bombing at a funeral.
The Taliban denied involvement in the attacks, but Ghani blamed them and the Islamic State group for the violence.
The war-weary residents of Kabul were relieved after the armistice was announced.
Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, there has only been one more ceasefire – a three-day hiatus between the Taliban and Kabul that also marked the end of Eid in 2018.
This ceasefire was initiated by Ghani.