On March 22, the Afghan government and the Taliban held their first discussion on arranging prisoners exchange, an ‘important step’ in a border push for peace. The United States special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, took to Twitter and said that the prisoner-swap was ‘urgent’ as the coronavirus pandemic was complicating the diplomatic contacts. In a tweet thread, he further added that all sides conveyed their ‘strong commitment’ and also agreed to ‘follow-on technical meeting in the next two days’.
Prisoner releases by both sides is an important step in the peace process, as stated in the US-Taliban agreement. And critical for humanitarian reasons.— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) March 22, 2020
The over two-hour technical discussion today was important, serious, and detailed. My thanks to all sides. Everyone clearly understands the coronavirus threat makes prisoner releases that much more urgent.— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) March 22, 2020
All sides conveyed their strong commitment to a reduction of violence, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire. We have also agreed to a follow-on technical meeting in the next two days.— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) March 22, 2020
The agreement which was signed back in February established a framework for bringing to an end America’s longest war that began after the 2001 terror attacks. The agreement notably called for the liberation of up to 5,000 Taliban fighters held by Kabul and up to 1,000 members of the Afghan government forces in insurgent hands. However, Afghanistan President was reportedly furious over the demand for pioneer release and said that only the government could authorise such a step.
It was later that Ghani did consent to a plan for gradual prisoner releases but also conditioned it on a reductio in violence. Taliban, however, initially rejected the proposal and said that they are ready for the next phase of the peace process but would not meet with the government officials until their prisoners are free. Following behind-the-scenes talks, Ghani announced that the authorities would fee 1,500 insurgents as a ‘gesture of goodwill’, with plans to free another 3,500 prisoners after the talks are underway.
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 the 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”.