While the United States promised the Taliban to release 5,000 prisoners of the militant group, the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected the demand on March 1 as the condition for intra-Afghan talks. Ghani's statement reportedly came against the backdrop of the struggles faced by the American negotiators in steering Kabul administration and Taliban towards peace talks. After countless meetings when US and Taliban finally signed the accord, Ghani has said that the partial truce will continue “with goal” of reaching a full ceasefire but declined to release the Taliban prisoners and cited the “right and self-will” of Afghan citizens.
Ghani said, “There is no commitment to releasing 5,000 prisoners. This is the right and the self-will of the people of Afghanistan. It could be included in the agenda of the intra-Afghan talks, but cannot be a prerequisite for talks”.
According to international reports, the agreement says that the US and the Taliban were committed to working towards the release of combat and political prisoners as a confidence-building measure with the coordination of all relevant sides. The agreement had also said that in exchange of freeing 5,000 jailed Taliban personnel, it would release 1,000 Afghan government captives on March 10. However, Afghan President has now claimed that “it is not in the authority of the United States to decide” and also called Washington “only a facilitator”.
The US signed a landmark deal with the Taliban on February 29 which laid out the timetable for America's full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within the period of 14 months marking US' exit from its longest war. According to international reports, the accord is expected to lead the way for a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government, and if it turns out successful, it would end an 18-year-long conflict.
The deal was signed in a conference room of luxury Doha hotel, with Taliban fighter-turned-dealmaker, Mullah Baradar alongside Washington's chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Reportedly, as Baradar and Khalilzad finally inked the accord, the people in the room shouted, “Allahu Akbar”. Before that Pompeo had also urged the insurgents to “keep your promises to cut ties with Al-Qaeda”.
According to international reports, US President Donald Trump urged the citizens of Afghanistan to embrace the chance for a new future. He further added that if both the Taliban and Kabul's government manage to “live up to these commitments”, they will have a “powerful path" forward in order to end the war in the country and bring American troops “home”. However, Afghanistan which has been excluded from the direct US-Taliban talks remained in an unclear position while also being gripped by a fresh political crisis and contested election results.
But, the US Secretary of Defence, Mark T Esper also met with Afghanistan's re-elected President Ashraf Ghani and according to the joint statement issued, they both discussed the “progress in the peace process” after the successful implementation of the reduction in violence. Furthermore, Washington has reaffirmed its commitment with partners at Afghanistan as the conditions-based US-Taliban agreement is implemented. According to the official website, Esper and Ghani agreed that the US-Taliban peace deal marks the start of achieving a “lasting peace for Afghan people, and security and stability in Afghanistan”.