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article imageOp-Ed: Afghan government postpones Taliban prisoner releases

By Ken Hanly     Mar 16, 2020 in Politics
On February 29 the Taliban and US signed a peace deal in Afghanistan. Since then the largest threat to the agreement is that the Ghani government has refused to follow through with a prisoner swap that was part of the agreement to build confidence.
Afghan government response to prisoner swap
The Afghan government was not a signatory to the deal and it argued that the US did not have the authority to demand the prisoner release. The government refused to honor the agreement. This resulted in the Taliban declaring that the period of violence reduction was over as far as attacks on the Afghan government was concerned. However, the Taliban still refrained from attacking foreign troops. However, the US intervened to protect the government against a Taliban attack so the Taliban as a result attacked the US troops as well.
Ghani promises a smaller prisoner release
The Afghan government had tried to save the deal by a compromise that would see a smaller release. The US deal had promised that 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released but in a recent edict Ghani said he would be released at the rate of about 100 per day up to 1500. The rest were to be released after further negotiations and on condition that the Taliban continued to reduce violence.
Taliban reject smaller phased release
Suhail Shaheen,
spokesperson for the Taliban said: "We reject Ghani's phased release of prisoners. We will also make sure at the time of the prisoners release that they are releasing the list of prisoners we have provided them with. Once this is done, we will proceed with the intra-Afghan talks."
Ghani now puts any release on hold
Apparently, Afghan officials are wanting to further review the list given them by the Taliban to see which members on the liast are likely to return to fighting in the future. Past delays had already been threatening the peace process. Ghani is making it difficult for the US as it has not been able to keep the terms of the agreement because of the Afghan government action.
Even to get the smaller phased release the US had to commit to attending Ghani's inauguration. His nomination is contested and rival Abdullah Abdullah also claims to be the president. This is the second time that the presidential election of Ghani over Abdullah has been in doubt. The first time in 2014 a special post of Chief Executive was created for Abdullah and Ghani remained president. Perhaps something similar will be worked out this time around.
Ghani may have a similar problem with the US, as his edict on prisoner releases came in return for the US committing to send attendees to his inauguration. The US followed through. Now the US is probably going to resent Afghani now creating a further obstacle to enforcing the US Taliban peace deal. The Taliban will not negotiate directly with the Afghan government because they consider it to be a puppet of the US. However, the strings on the puppet appear not to be working at all as they should.
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
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