A day after President Ashraf Ghani signed a decree to release the last batch of Taliban prisoners ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations, critics blamed him for delaying the process, saying that it could have been done earlier and that many casualties could have been prevented, considering the Taliban had pledged to reduce violence after the start of the talks.
President Ghani's position was originally against the release of Taliban prisoners, which are a pre-condition for the start of direct talks with the Taliban, according to the US-Taliban agreement signed on Feb. 29.
Afghan critics said that the prisoner release process in particular and the peace process in general, have been delayed by the president to continue his time in office until at least after the US election.
The former head of the National Directorate of Security, Rahmatullah Nabil, who has been a strong critic of Ghani on the peace process, said the president has sidelined Afghanistan’s national interests when it comes to the release of Taliban prisoners. He added that the Afghan people will be harmed again if Ghani applies the same approach to the negotiations with the Taliban.
“The decision to delay the release of the 500 prisoners was based on personal interest rather than serving the national interest," Nabil said. "Because according to our information, one of the conditions for (Ghani's) inauguration was that we (US) will give international recognition to your inauguration if you (Ghani) release the 5,000 prisoners.”
He added: “They are also waiting for the US Election to see if the results are changed or at least the present system (Trump administration) remains in power--perhaps they will change their mind and we complete our five-year term.”
“It was a display of power by the Afghan government in which they tried to show to the world that they still have control, still have power,” said Sayed Eshaq Gailani, of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan.
Analysts in peace affairs said that Ghani is trying to deliberately slow down the peace process.
"The government is creating hurdles at each step of the peace process because it does not see the continuation of its power in peace," said Noor Rahman Lewal, a political affairs analyst.
“The government has identified the weak points of its rivals and has strengthened its position in the peace process as one of the main sides in the talks and prevented dangers facing the government, ” said Bashir Hatif, a political analyst in Kabul.
Some Kabul residents also criticized the delay in the release of prisoners and said it could have been done earlier if the government wanted to.
“If the government had taken this decision with proper timing, we would not have this many casualties,” said Mohammad Hakim Munawar, a resident in Kabul.
"How come the government did not release all the prisoners at once if it wanted to release all of them," said Hashmat, a Kabul resident.
Under the US-Taliban peace agreement, which was signed on February 29 in Doha, the Taliban demanded a swift release of 5000 prisoners, but the release is only now in its final stages after a five-month delay.