The Afghan government will not finalize the release of the remaining 320 Taliban prisoners--out of the 400 controversial detainees--unless the Taliban ensures the release of 20 Afghan commandos, sources familiar with the peace process said on Wednesday.
In a separate but related issue, according to sources, the US is now in talks with the Australian and French governments who recently opposed the release of at least six of these high-value Taliban prisoners who are accused of being involved in the killing of these nations' citizens in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in an interview with tbe UK's The Times has warned that the release of Taliban prisoners will hit the UK with a new wave of drugs if a final batch of Taliban fighters are released from prison under the conditions of the US-Taliban peace deal that was signed in Doha on February 29.
“If drugs go through the roof in the United Kingdom and Europe, all your leaders have been part of this,” Ghani said, quoted by The Times as saying.
“If amphetamines reach the shores of the United States we should know that these are the consequences, and if these people commit crimes, there’s shared international responsibility.” He said.
“The ceasefire will be the first item of the agenda when direct discussions---negotiations between the delegation of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban begin, now we will see what the Taliban truly believe, unfortunately, peace is not been socialized among their commanders and among their fighters, so its an important juncture and I hope they will make the right choice,” stated Ghani.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) is also in talks with the Australian and French authorities about the release of the Taliban prisoners.
“The expectation is that an acceptable solution will be found for the issue,” said Geran Hewad, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sources close to the Taliban have accused the US of failing to deliver on its commitments under the Doha deal.
“We call on the Americans to deliver on their promises and convince their allies so that the prisoners are released and the talks are started,” said Mawlavi Qalamuddin, the former head of the preligious police department in the Taliban regime.
However, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Twitter said that the Afghan peace process has entered into a hopeful stage, urging the Afghan leaders not to repeat past mistakes.
“Afghan leaders from all sides will have to rise to the occasion, put their country first, learn from past mistakes and reach a political agreement. That is the road to ending the war and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” tweeted Khalilzad.