The Afghan government on Monday once again stated it's firm stance of not releasing nearly 600 Taliban prisoners who are reportedly guilty of serious crimes beyond membership in the Taliban. The government called on the group to not request specific individuals for release.
The intra-Afghan negotiations were expected to begin within weeks after the US-Taliban deal was signed late in February, but the process faced multiple delays over disagreements on the release of Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government.
“The US has agreed with the Taliban about the release of 5,000 prisoners… We do not expect the Taliban to tell us who should be released,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters in Kabul on Monday.
Meanwhile, former US national security adviser John Bolton has said that Taliban is not committed to the agreement they signed with the US.
“I think the Taliban remain as dangerous as they have ever been. I don’t think they’re going to follow through on the peace deal that they have negotiated. I don’t think they have any intention of honoring that with respect to the government of Afghanistan and I think the harboring of terrorists whether they’re ISIS, al-Qaeda or others remains a severe problem,” Bolton said in an interview with DD India TV.
Taliban spokesman, however, rejected the remarks and said the group is committed to implementing the peace deal.
Based on the agreement, the group has committed to not attack cities. On Monday, Taliban launched attacks on the outskirts of the northern city of Pul-e-Khumri, closing the main highway to traffic.
Sources close to the Taliban said the release of key Taliban prisoners – on which the Afghan government has disagreements – will help the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“The release of prisoners not only creates an environment of trust, but it also helps the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations,” said Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a university lecturer.
On Sunday, the Afghan government revealed that one of the main reasons behind the delay in the intra-Afghan negotiations was its refusal to release 597 prisoners out of the 5,000 inmates that were to be freed as part of the US-Taliban agreement signed in late February.
These individuals are accused of serious "moral crimes," and are on a list that was given to the government by the Taliban, said Ahmad Rashid Totakhil, who heads up the prisoner release process.
According to the Afghan government, so far 4,015 Taliban prisoners have been released and the process will continue this week.