President Ashraf Ghani on Monday warned that a possible deal made by the international community on the fate of Afghans will be rejected by Kabul, and he pledged that the republic and the government forces will not be compromised in the peace process with the Taliban.
“We are not ready for compromise. If the world compromised on us, we will stand and will say no to the world,” Ghani said.
On Monday evening, the AP quoted Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi explaining the new position of the Afghan government, which is that the release of the remainingTaliban prisoners will be halted until the Taliban releases government troops.
“We are going to release them. That’s not an issue. But it has to be two-way,” government spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told The Associated Press. “If we take this bold step, releasing all these guys, all these bad people, why are the Taliban not releasing our captives, which is a very small number?”
Sources within the government said that the Taliban has not released more than 20 Afghan commandos, and sources within the Taliban said the group will not release them until the release of their 400 prisoners. The Taliban has also said that they will not attend the intra-Afghan talks until the release of 400 prisoners is completed, said the sources.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s political spokesman, said the group had fulfilled its obligations and was not aware of any other security personnel in its custody who were to be released, said the Associated Press.
This will put the intra-Afghan talks on hold, which were expected to begin in days but are contingent on the remaining Taliban prisoners being released by the Afghan government.
Another issue causing a snag in the prisoner release--and the intra-Afghan negotiations--are the requests by international allies for special "considerations" for some of the prisoners. The United States, France and Australia are opposing the release of some of the prisoners, according to sources within the government, but reports confirm the position of Australia and France only.
“There are six to seven individuals about whom our allies have considerations. These considerations have been officially shared with the Afghan government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on it, solving it,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.
These requests have been criticized by politicians and critics.
“Three ambassadors have raised their voices for six individuals and the decision (on the prisoner release) is delayed. Now it is up to the government to decide whether the nation is important to them--or the voice of these ambassadors,” Omar Zakhilwal, former ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, said at a gathering in Kabul on Monday.
“They say that they (the six prisoners) have killed Australian and American soldiers. What about the 100,000 to 150,000 Afghans who were killed?” asked Haji Din Mohammad, head of the Islamic party of peace and development of Afghanistan, addressing the same event.
President Ashraf Ghani signed the decree to release the prisoners a week ago, a process that was first approved by the Loya Jirga, the grand council of at least 3,400 delegates.
Reuters also reported that France has asked the Afghan government not to release Taliban fighters convicted of killing French citizens.
Before the start of the process, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week he had lobbied for a former Afghan army soldier, who went rogue and killed three Australian colleagues, to stay in jail, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
Sources close to the Taliban blamed the Afghan government for creating hurdles in the way of direct peace talks that are expected to be held in Doha initially.
“If they say that you do not celebrate Independence Day tomorrow because the French and Australians who were killed here, will we accept this?” said Nazar Mohammad Motmaeen, a political affairs analyst.
“You have not come to Afghanistan for picnic or sightseeing. Who will pay us the damages that you have inflicted on us?” asked Sayed Akbar Agha, former Taliban member.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi in a tweet on Sunday said “all stakeholders must ensure residual issues resolved to commence Intra-Afghan negotiations without delay.”
“Our collective efforts have so far succeeded in advancing Afghan peace process to current unprecedented point,” he added.
Last week, the consultative Loya Jirga approved the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners, in a step that was seen as a key push for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.
According to government data, out of the 400 prisoners in question, 156 of them have been sentenced to death, 105 of them are accused of murder, 34 of them are accused of kidnapping that led to murder, 51 of them are accused of drug smuggling, 44 of them are on the blacklist of the Afghan government and its allies, six of them are accused of assorted other crimes, four are accused of unspecified crimes.
The list of 5,000 prisoners was given to the Afghan government by the Taliban to be released ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations--the peace talks that are now expected to be held in Doha.