The Taliban is ready to begin intra-Afghan negotiations within a week if the prisoner release is completed, said spokesman Suhail Shaheen in an interview with BBC Pashto.
Shaheen said the first round of talks will be led by Abbas Stanikzai, the former chief negotiator of the Taliban during their talks with the United States.
His remarks come hours after the Loya Jirga with 3,400 delegates approved the release of 400 high-value Taliban prisoners, a decision that was deemed a key hurdle to the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.
The first round of the negotiations is expected to be held in Doha, Qatar.
In response to a question on the Taliban’s willingness for a ceasefire, which was called for at the Jirga, Shaheen said: “The ceasefire is part of the intra-Afghan negotiations agenda that will be discussed there. It has been mentioned in the Doha agreement.”
He said that the Taliban has not attacked major provinces and has not tried to capture centers of provinces, referring to a question on reduction in violence.
“We also have not attacked the capital, Kabul. We have reduced violence,” he said.
Shaheen said the group has the will for peace, and cited its opening of the Qatar office as an example.
He criticized a delay in the completion of the prisoner release and said the group will continue to implement its commitments to the agreement they signed with the US in Doha back in February.
Jirga Approves Release of Prisoners
The Loya Jirga, the grand assembly, in a resolution issued on Sunday approved the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners in an aim to quickly start the intra-Afghan talks and bring about a ceasefire and an end to the nation's war.
The resolution, which has 25 articles, was issued at today’s Loya Jirga session. President Ashraf Ghani, former president Hamid Karzai, and other political figures have called on the Taliban for an immediate start to the intra-Afghan talks.
The members of the Loya Jirga in the resolution welcome and support the lasting peace with dignity to bring peace and stability to the country.
The resolution also states that if foreign fighters are among the 400 Taliban prisoners “they must be handed over to their countries with valid guarantee.”
It also said that the release of the remaining Taliban prisoners must come with the assurance that the direct talks between the government and the Taliban will start “without any excuses.”
The resolution also called for an immediate and long-lasting ceasefire and called on the international community and the Unites States to implement their commitment regarding this.
The statement also said that the people and the government of Afghanistan must be assured that the released Taliban prisoners “will not return to war and their activity will be monitored.”
The resolution urged the international community to cease direct and indirect intervention in Afghanistan’s affairs and to cease their support for terrorist groups.
They urged the Taliban and Afghan government to end the violence and conflict in the country and to solve the rifts through negotiations.
It also pointed out that the “Islamic values, the role of scholars, basic government institutions, democracy and the two-decade achievements of Afghanistan “must be preserved and strengthened.”
The resolution also pointed out that the members of the Loya Jirga believes that women, as half of the body of society, should have a legal and political status and play a constructive role and participation in all stages of the process.
The Loya Jirga members also believe that the Constitution is a national guarantee which must be preserved, but, if necessary, it is possible to amend it, in accordance with the mechanism provided for within it.
The resolution mentioned that the Afghan security forces are guardians of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and must be “supported and strengthened.”
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, 6 of them are accused of other crimes, 4 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 intra-Afghan negotiations, which are now expected to be held in Doha.
So far, the government has released 4,600 of the prisoners on the Taliban list, and an additional 500 who were not on the Taliban list. These last 500 were freed during Eid in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire.