Afghan govt will not release more Taliban prisoners: Omar

KABUL (Tolo News): Waheed Omar, President Ghani’s senior adviser for public and strategic affairs, on Wednesday said that the Afghan government will not release more Taliban prisoners, and said that previous releases has resulted in more violence.

This comes as the Taliban has demanded the release of 7,000 more prisoners, the removal of the group’s members from the UN blacklist, and the formation of an Islamic system in order to continue the peace talks, according to peace talks. “We are not in favor of releasing more Taliban prisoners,” Omar said.

The release of over 5,000 Taliban prisoners before was intended to reduce violence as the part of the peace process, Omar said, but “violence has increased because of it.” In the meantime, Republic negotiator Abdul Hafiz Mansoor on Monday said that the negotiating team has decided that the legitimacy of the war must be discussed with the Taliban before any progress can be made.

He said the talks will not have an outcome until this issue is clarified. On Sunday, the chief negotiators from the Afghan republic and the Taliban met; however, the working groups from both sides failed to meet on Monday to finalize the agenda for the talks.

Three meetings were held in the first days since the talks resumed on January 6, but the working groups from both sides have not met for the last six days. According to negotiator Nader Nadery, it was only the heads of the two teams and a limited amount of members who met on Sunday evening and discussed the agenda.

The lack of meetings was criticized by Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), who met with a number of foreign diplomats at a virtual event to discuss coordination around the peace efforts.  Abdullah said the peace efforts must be expedited.

NCNR also urged that the security and reduction in violence in the country is on priority of the Republic negotiating team. Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said that talking about the legitimacy of the war “is late,” and until the policy of President-elect Joe Biden on Afghanistan has been made known, the Afghan peace process will have an “unclear fate.” Omar said “we hope that the new US administration will work in coordination with the Afghan government on peace.”

Earlier this week, the US Department of Defense in a statement confirmed that the number of US forces in Afghanistan has reached 2,500 as directed by President Donald Trump. “Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” US acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in the statement.

A Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem welcomed the move as a step forward toward resolving the conflict in the country. The US-Taliban deal signed on February 29 last year raised hopes among Afghans for a reduction in violence but the Taliban, in defiance of the international community, continued their attacks against the Afghan government forces. However, so far, there has been no major progress between the Republic negotiating team and Taliban.