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article imageOp-Ed: Afghan government and Taliban hold talks on prisoner swap

By Ken Hanly     Mar 26, 2020 in Politics
Taliban and Afghan officials have met once again but this time by video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, they are to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the next couple of days.
The meeting will discuss the Afghan government's release of Taliban prisoners as agreed to in the February 29th agreement between the Taliban and the US.
Afghan government refusal to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners holding up talks
As a confidence building measure the US Taliban agreement included a prison swap that included releasing 5,000 Taliban imprisoned by the Afghan government.The Afghan government refused to comply causing the Taliban to restart attacks on the Afghan government but not on coalition troops. However, the US came to the defense of the Afghan government renewing conflict with the Taliban. No Taliban prisoners have been released as yet.
The two sides take different positions on prisoner swap
The Afghan government sees the prisoner release as taking place in stages as the talks progress. They had agreed to an initial release of 1,500 to get the talks going. The Taliban have wanted all the prisoners to be released before they will agree to talks with the Afghan government members on power-sharing. This was what the US envisioned as well. It is the actions of the Afghan government not the US or the Taliban that are threatening the peace deal and preventing talks as well.
Afghan government to release some prisoners
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said of a recent virtual meeting between the Taliban and the Ghani government: "The meeting decided that the release of the prisoners will practically start by the end of March." Afghan officials for their part have said that they plan to release 100 Taliban on humanitarian grounds. If this happens it remains to be seen if this will be enough for the Taliban to stop attacks while the rest are released later. The release would be a good first step towards starting talks. The Taliban have insisted that all 5,000 prisoners be released before talks but perhaps the gradual release would be enough for them to pause attacks until all are released.
Peace agreement would see staged US withdrawal
The deal
had originally scheduled the US to withdraw withdraw US troop levels to 8,600 as a a first stage within 135 days, It also require a prisoner swap of 5,000 TaIiban and 1,000 held by the Taliban by March 10. The situation is further complicated by a political crises in Afghanistan with both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah declaring their presidency. Mike Pompeo met with the two but failed to get them to form a unity government. The US has cut off one billion in aid no doubt to encourage them to come to some compromise as they had done in 2014,
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about US Taliban peace agreement, Afghan war, US Taliban relations
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