Afghan resident Ashraf Ghani has announced that Kabul will release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in acknowledgement of Taliban’s calling for a three-day ceasefire on the occasion of Eid.
The decision to free the captives was a “goodwill gesture” and was taken “to ensure the success of the peace process”, Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted. Afghan President Ghani had earlier stated that he would fasten the process of freeing Taliban insurgents.
Before Sunday’s announcement, the Ashraf Ghani government has already released about 1,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban freed about 300 Afghan security forces. Ghani also said a government delegation was “ready to immediately start the peace talks” with the Taliban insurgents.
The Taliban offering of a cease-fire comes just days after leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged the Trump administration “not to waste” the occasion offered by the pact with the US that set the stage for the removal of foreign troops from the Islamic republic.
US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the deal tweeted that the ceasefire was “a momentous opportunity that should not be missed” while vowing that the Trump administration would “do its part to help”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also pushed the Taliban and Ashraf Ghani government to seize the opportunity to commence peace talks, with the release of prisoners as the first step. But he said in a statement Sunday that he expected “the Taliban to stick to their pledge not to allow released prisoners to return to the battleground”.
He also urged the two sides to avoid escalating violence after Eid.
Analysts, however, say the Taliban have been heartened with the US peace deal and the Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since it was signed, killing 420 civilians and wounding 906.
Earlier, on February 29, a peace treaty between the US and the Taliban was signed in Doha, Qatar. As a confidence-building measure, the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 prisoners, while the Afghan government agreed to free 5,000 Taliban insurgents and supporters.