Delay of peace process persists

KABUL (TOLO News): Following eighteen months of marathon diplomacy in Doha, the US and the Taliban signed a deal on February 29 in Doha with the aim of bringing peace to Afghanistan, but the next milestone–March 10–has been missed, which was the scheduled date for the beginning of the intra-Afghan talks.

According to the US-Taliban peace agreement, the intra-Afghan talks were scheduled to start on March 10 on the condition that the Afghan government ensure the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners from its jails, and the Taliban would reciprocate by releasing 1,000 captives as well.

But President Ashraf Ghani has refused to release the Taliban prisoners without conditions, and not all at once, and this move has not been accepted by the Taliban, which has ramped-up attacks.

The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said that Ghani’s delaying in releasing the prisoners, and his delay in creating a peace negotiating team, shows that the government in Kabul wants to fight.

Others share that view:

“The government wants to delay the intra-Afghan talks by making various excuses. First it was the issue of investigations, and now coronavirus,” said Fazel Hadi Wazeen, a university lecturer in Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman Latif Mahmoud responded: “It is the Taliban who conduct terrorism and make brutal attacks to obstruct the way for peace.”

Meanwhile, there are reports that former president Hamid Karzai and former mujahideen leader Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf have begun mediation efforts to solve the tensions between President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, according to Sayyaf’s spokesman Massoud Tarishtwal.

“The agenda is focused on how to ensure the safety of Afghanistan and how to create an inclusive government, where all parties and all Afghan politicians can see themselves represented. Discussion has been held regarding this principle,” said Tarishtwal.

But sources close to Karzai have said that their mediation efforts have so far not yielded an outcome.

“Those causing the current miseries that dominate on the Afghan people today are those who form this present government (Ghani and Abdullah),” said Abdul Shokor Dadras, a former official working at Bagram prison in prisoner affairs.

This comes after Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, suggested that Afghan political leaders compromise and create an inclusive government.

“It is time for Afghans to compromise and put their differences aside to resolve the political crisis resulting from elections and dual inaugurations,” Khalilzad tweeted on Thursday.

“This crisis undermines security. Coronavirus poses a mortal threat and requires Afghans to put their country, and its people, first. It is a matter of life and death,” said Khalilzad.