A day after the US and the Taliban signed a peace deal and the Afghan government and Washington announced a joint declaration, President Ashraf Ghani appeared at a press conference – for the second time in his five-year term – and said “there is no commitment on the release of the 5,000 prisoners” of the Taliban.
According to the US-Taliban deal and the joint Afghan-US declaration, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released by March 10 in order to facilitate the intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban.
But Ghani criticized the deal and said, “an agreement that is signed behind closed doors will have basic problems in its implementation tomorrow.”
“The release of prisoners is not the United States authority, but it is the authority of the government of Afghanistan,” Ghani said, adding that there is no commitment to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Ghani said the release of 5,000 prisoners cannot be considered a precondition-- it can be part of the negotiations.
Ghani also spoke about the negotiating team, which, according to the agreements, should attend intra-Afghan negotiations on March 10.
He said the delegation that will go to Doha will represent Afghanistan’s basic values and that the effectiveness of the team should be considered when it comes to the number of its members.
“The authority of the delegation is limited because the ultimate decision-maker, based on the Constitution, is either the parliament of Afghanistan or the Loya Jirga (Grand Council) of Afghanistan or a referendum,” Ghani added.
When asked about whether he will be able to announce a negotiating team in the span of nine days, Ghani said the discussions about a negotiating team have already begun and that he is confident that the team will be formed within the next nine days.
During his speech, Ghani stressed the primary importance of sustaining the republic system, saying there is a clear necessity for all to focus on the republic – not the presidency – when it comes to talks with the Taliban.
The president said the “Islamic Emirate” is a term that has been used by the Taliban for themselves, and it has been repeated by the US, but it is not recognized by the United States.
He said that the reduction in violence will continue and he hopes it will become a ceasefire.
Government figures show that in the weeklong reduction in violence – from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28 – at least 21 security force members and nine civilians were killed in twelve provinces--and 49 others were wounded.