The Afghan Taliban say they are ready for talks with the Afghan government. According to Afghan officials, the release of Taliban prisoners will begin in the next few weeks.
The fate of 400 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government is being hailed as crucial to the success of the peace process. The Taliban had demanded that the Afghan government be included in the ongoing negotiations with the United States only if it released all Afghan Taliban prisoners. About 5,000 Taliban prisoners have been released so far during the ongoing negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. Three thousand Afghans attending a Loya Jirga in Kabul on Sunday decided after a three-day consultation that the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners held in Afghanistan would also be released.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen said: “Our position is very clear. As soon as the release of Taliban prisoners is completed, we will be ready for inter-Afghan peace talks.”
The prisoner exchange was a key clause in the agreement reached between the Afghan Taliban and the United States for negotiations in February this year. Under the agreement, Washington could begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. In return for the evacuation, the Taliban accepted the US condition that the Taliban begin a peace process with the Afghan government. This dialogue process will seek to resolve the conflict that has been raging for the past two decades. According to Sohail Shaheen, the Taliban delegation to the inter-Afghan peace talks is led by Abbas Stanikzai. Abbas Stanikzai led the Taliban delegation in the negotiation process with the United States.
The resolution issued by the Loya Jirga said that the decision to release these Taliban prisoners was being taken to enhance peace talks, stop the war and for the welfare of the people. The jirga called on the government to ensure that released prisoners do not return to war. The jirga also demanded an immediate ceasefire.