Afghan Taliban give a strong Response to President Ashraf Ghani announcement
ISLAMABAD - The Taliban Wednesday rejected an Afghan government order that allows for the conditional release of thousands of insurgent prisoners, calling Kabul’s move a violation of the accord the Taliban recently signed with the United States.
"It is clearly stated in the text of the (U.S.-Taliban) agreement that all of our 5,000 prisoners would be freed unconditionally and before the commencement of intra-Afghan peace negotiations,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told VOA.
The insurgent group is also bound to free from its custody 1,000 detainees, mostly Afghan security forces, according to the deal. [image: FILE - Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen is seen during talks in the Qatari capital Doha, July 7, 2019.].
"Now, if they (the Afghan government) do not want to release those 5,000 inmates they are certainly blocking the way to opening intra-Afghan talks,” said Shaheen, who spoke by phone from the group’s political office in Qatar, where the U.S.-Taliban pact was sealed on Feb. 29.
Hours earlier, President Ashraf Ghani ordered a phased release of imprisoned Taliban fighters starting Saturday. The decree called for freeing a batch of 1,500 Taliban prisoners, 100 a day, after receiving written guarantees from each of them that they will not return to the battlefield.
The remaining 3,500 prisoners will be released in groups of 500 every two weeks after the commencement of direct talks between Taliban and Afghan government-appointed teams of negotiators.
Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi emphasized at a news conference in Kabul that the prisoner release was conditioned on a reduction in Taliban violence, opening of intra-Afghan talks and a cease-fire.
"If (the) Taliban wants release of 5,000 prisoners they will have to stop the fighting," Sediqqi said. The prisoner release process will be stopped if insurgent violence persisted, he cautioned.
Shaheen, while speaking to VOA on Wednesday, also outlined the agenda for the intra-Afghan negotiations and when they begin. “
Those negotiations will be about issues such as the formation of a future Islamic government or system in the country, constitutional reforms and reforming (Afghan) security institutions and a permanent cease-fire,” said the Taliban spokesman.