Amid escalating violence in many parts of the country, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday--the eve of Ramadan--appealed to the Taliban for a ceasefire, citing the special conditions of the countrywide spread of the coronavirus.
But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen responded on Twitter saying the government's inattention to “thousands” of prisoners--who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus--made Ghani's appeal insincere, and this and other factors made a ceasefire improbable.
In his message, Ghani called on the Taliban to stop “killing Afghans.” He also said that the government will continue helping vulnerable families during the coronavirus crisis in the country.
Ghani’s appeal comes as dozens of Afghan security force members have lost their lives in Taliban attacks over the last week.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that asking for a ceasefire is not "rational" or "convincing" as "thousands of prisoners are being put into danger due to the coronavirus and hurdles are created in the way of the peace process and complete implementation of the (US-Taliban) agreement.”
The Taliban is demanding the release of 5,000 prisoners by the Afghan government based on the US-Taliban agreement. The Afghan government has agreed to the release of 1,500 prisoners but through a conditioned and gradual process.
According to National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, five out of 15 prisoners specifically requested by the Taliban were involved in major attacks in Kabul, including the German embassy bombing that left dozens of civilians dead.