Taliban ready for peace talks in Afghanistan once prisoners are released

The Taliban said on Monday that it is ready to start peace talks with the Afghan government “the week after” the release of 400 Taliban prisoners.

“Our position is clear, if the prisoners are released, we will be ready for inter-Afghan discussions the following week,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP, specifying that the first round will take place in Doha. .

A large assembly of notable Afghans on Sunday approved the release of 400 Taliban prisoners responsible for serious crimes, posing one of the main obstacles to peace negotiations in this country devastated by decades of conflict.

“The Afghan government will start releasing 400 Taliban prisoners in two days,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Fasial told AFP.

The Taliban spokesman specified that the insurgent delegation will be headed by Abas Stanekzai, chief negotiator in discussions with Washington that preceded the agreement signed in February.

The Taliban’s release was a key point in this historic agreement between Washington and the Taliban with a view to withdrawing US troops by mid-2021 in exchange for the insurgents’ commitment to initiate inter-Afghan negotiations.

“We are ready to (start) the peace talks,” said Abdullah Abdullah, the executive officer in charge of negotiations with Afghan insurgents.

“Negotiations are expected to start a day or two after the release of the 400 prisoners,” said former President Hamid Karzai (2001-2014).

The Afghan government and the Taliban agreed to hold a prisoner exchange before negotiating.

Afghan authorities have already released nearly 5,000 Taliban, but have refused to release those 400 detainees, implicated in several serious attacks.

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His release was decided by the jirga, which brings together tribal elders and other prominent men who have the final say on controversial issues.

According to an official list consulted by AFP, many of the 400 prisoners are accused of serious crimes and more than 150 are on death row.

It also includes a group of 44 insurgents who raise concerns from the United States and other countries for their role in “high-level” attacks.

Among them are those responsible for the attack on the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul in 2018, which caused 40 deaths, 14 of them foreign.

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