Taliban's spokesperson has declared on March 2 that if Afghanistan does not release its prisoners, “there will be no intra-Afghan talks”. Just days after the “momentous” peace deal was signed between the United States and the Taliban, the row has continued over talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan. The US had assured the insurgent group with the release of its 5,000 prisoners on March 10 in exchange of 1,000 Afghan government captives.
However, earlier Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani denied following this part of the accord saying that the prisoner swap could be included in the agenda of intra-Afghan talks but “cannot be prerequisite for talks”. Taliban's spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters over the phone that “If our 5,000 prisoners - 100 or 200 more or less does not matter - do not get released there will be no intra-Afghan talks”.
Ghani had rejected the demand of prisoners' release on March 1 as the condition for intra-Afghan talks. Afghan President'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. 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”.