Presidential advisor Waheed Omer on Monday said the proposed list of Taliban prisoners is being assessed and that the inmates will be released gradually in installments. But, he added, the release of prisoners will only happen if the intra-Afghan negotiations begin and a significant reduction in violence is observed.
Omer also said that no Taliban prisoner would be released without a guarantee.
“We are reviewing the Taliban prisoner list. The release of the prisoners is not that all 5,000 prisoners will be released at once. It will take time so that we can learn about the crimes for which each has been imprisoned,” Omer said.
The Taliban has rejected the government’s plan for a gradual release of prisoners and has said they will not attend the intra-Afghan negotiations unless all 5,000 prisoners are released.
An Afghan politician, Sayed Ishaq Gailani, who has met with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for four times recently, said the current opportunity should be used.
“Prisoners in these three categories should be released: aged individuals, ill individuals and those who have completed their sentence,” Gailani said.
The first prisoner release should have begun on March 14 according to a presidential decree. But the process has been delayed.
The prisoner swap was called for in the US-Taliban deal signed in Doha on February 29 as a way to open the door for intra-Afghan talks. The deal was preceded by a seven-day reduction in violence period observed by all sides in the conflict.
“I don’t think the Taliban will be ready for talks unless the 5,000 prisoners are released,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban member.
This comes as at least 11 security force members were killed in a Taliban attack in Ghor province on Monday, despite expectations that the militant group would continue with a reduction in violence as the peace process advanced.