The Afghan government will continue the release of Taliban prisoners to begin intra-Afghan negotiations and to help the announced reduction in violence go on, said the National Security Council on Sunday.
President Ashraf Ghani on May 24 pledged to release 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in response to the Eid ceasefire announced by the Taliban. So far, the government has released 1,700 detainees of this latest pledged tranche, bringing the total number of Taliban released to 2,700.
The release of prisoners is part of the US-Taliban agreement and is intended to pave the way for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations, for which the Afghan government has shown a readiness to begin.
The Taliban has also released over 420 prisoners, 73 of them during the last few days from Balkh, Logar, Kunduz, Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces.
“The process will continue so that based on President Ghani’s decree, 2,000 prisoners are released,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for National Security Council.
“The intra-Afghan negotiations will begin when 5,000 Taliban prisoners are released. I don’t think they will begin before that,” said Sami Yausafzai, a journalist familiar with the matter.
The Presidential Palace says the Afghan government is ready for intra-Afghan negotiations.
“We are fully ready for the process,” said presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi “The negotiation team is ready, and the High Council for National Reconciliation has been established and we are fully ready for beginning the negotiations.”
Rights activists said the prisoners' release should be carried out responsibly.
“No doubt, prisoners will be released to begin the intra-Afghan negotiations, but the issue is that those who are released-- are they accused of war crime and crimes against humanity or not?” said Zabihullah Farhang, head of the media office of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
On Saturday, Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said he hopes the intra-Afghan negotiations will begin in the next week, and he reiterated that the negotiation team and the Afghan government are ready for the process.