Talking to TOLOnews, the State Minister for Peace Affairs, Salam Rahimi, spoke about developments in political talks to end political tensions between the Presidential Palace and the Sapidar Palace, and said the High Council of Peace and Reconciliation will soon be formed and that it will be led by Abdullah Abdullah.
The plan was initially proposed by President Ashraf Ghani, when he offered the leadership of the High Council of Peace and Reconciliation to his political rival Abdullah, apparently in an attempt to end the standoff. The council will lead peace efforts.
“In the very near future, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will take the responsibility of the council and will begin his work,” Rahimi said. “The (peace) process will move forward after he (Abdullah Abdullah) enters the process and takes the responsibility.”
But Abdullah’s spokesman, Fraidwoon Khwazoon, said there hasn’t been an agreement between the two sides so far, and added that Abdullah – who has reportedly finalized a plan for ending the standoff – has not shared his proposed plan with Ghani so far.
“The negotiations are underway. No final agreement has been made. Our plan has not been shared with the other side. It will be shared after consultations are done,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government and the Taliban both continue to release prisoners, as mentioned in the US-Taliban agreement as a precursor to the intra-Afghan talks.
On Friday afternoon, the Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid announced that twenty more Afghan security force members had been released from a detention area in Laghman province.
The release of prisoners has been delayed multiple times, but the Afghan government has agreed to free 1,500 detainees instead of the 5,000 proposed in US-Taliban agreement.
So far, the government has released 361 Taliban prisoners, and the Taliban has freed up to 60 people who were in their custody.
Rahimi said the release of 15 key Taliban commanders – a Taliban demand – depends on the developments in the peace process, adding these inmates have "complicated" cases.
“All prisoners will be released if we witness peace in Afghanistan,” Rahimi said.
Former Taliban member Sayed Akbar Agha said the prisoners released by the Taliban in Laghman on Thursday were members of the Afghan army and commandos
“I think the release of these prisoners will have a positive impact on the peace process, and we call on both sides to expedite the process,” he said.
Based on the US-Taliban agreement, the government should release 5,000 Taliban prisoners to facilitate the intra-Afghan negotiations. But the government is still insisting on the conditions-based release of the prisoners and says 1,500 of them will be released before the talks and the release of others will be considered during the talks.
Last November the government released three Haqqani network members, Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, in exchange for the release of two Haqqani-held professors who were abducted while working for the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).
Former NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil mentioned the released prisoners in a tweet this week, saying “former Bagram detainee Haji Mali Khan … has gone back to Pakistan and has started his direct involvement in supervising operations, logistics and organizational activities thus violating his release agreement.”
But Rahimi said he does not have information concerning this.
“They (the Haqqani network members) made commitments to not return to the battlefield… The intelligence is working on the issue of what Mali Khan is doing in Pakistan,” Rahimi added.
The Afghan government has formed a negotiation team but it is not known when the intra-Afghan negotiations will begin.