The US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with the Taliban's deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Qatar on Wednesday and discussed the prisoner release, intra-Afghan talks and the US-Taliban peace agreement, Taliban's spokesman Suhail Shaheen said.
The US State Department on Wednesday said that Khalilzad departed on May 5 for travel to Doha, New Delhi, and Islamabad.
“In Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad will meet with Taliban representatives to press for full implementation of the US-Taliban agreement,” it said, adding: “In New Delhi, he will meet with Indian officials to discuss the important role of India in a sustainable peace in Afghanistan and the region.”
The statement said that in Islamabad, Khalilzad will meet with Pakistani officials and will also discuss the Afghan peace process.
“At each stop, he will urge support for an immediate reduction in violence, accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, and cooperation among all sides in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan,” it added.
Khalilzad and Baradar signed a peace agreement on Feb. 29.
The US-Taliban deal called for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 government prisoners, and for the Afghan government to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners before peace talks that were to begin on March 10.
But a dispute over the pace and scale of the releases between the militants and the government, which was not a party to the deal, helped delay the talks.
The Taliban has also increased their attacks recently in the country.
So far, the government has released 902 Taliban prisoners, said the National Security Council’s spokesman Javid Faisal on Tuesday, who said another 500 inmates will be released in the coming days.
Faisal said that at this stage a total of 1,500 prisoners will be released by the Afghan government.
The Afghan government made an earlier pledge to release a total of 5,000 Taliban prisoners but only after the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations and if violence is reduced in a way that leads to a countrywide ceasefire.
The process continues amid hopes for beginning intra-Afghan negotiations, which have been delayed over issues around the prisoner release and other matters.
So far, the Taliban has released 110 prisoners.