Afghan resident Ashraf Ghani has announced that Kabul will release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in acknowledgement of Taliban’s calling for a three-day ceasefire on the occasion of Eid.
The decision to free the captives was a “goodwill gesture” and was taken “to ensure the success of the peace process”, Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted. Afghan President Ghani had earlier stated that he would fasten the process of freeing Taliban insurgents.
Pres. Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2000 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid.The AFG Gov is extending the offer of peace and is taking further steps to ensure success of the peace process. pic.twitter.com/So0UEB5Bpi
— Sediq Sediqqi (@SediqSediqqi) May 24, 2020
The Taliban offering of a cease-fire comes just days after leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged the Trump administration “not to waste” the occasion offered by the pact with the US that set the stage for the removal of foreign troops from the Islamic republic.
US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the deal tweeted that the ceasefire was “a momentous opportunity that should not be missed” while vowing that the Trump administration would “do its part to help”.
(1/5) #EidMubarak to all who celebrate. We welcome the Taliban’s decision to observe a ceasefire during Eid, as well as the Afghan government announcement reciprocating and announcing its own ceasefire.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) May 23, 2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also pushed the Taliban and Ashraf Ghani government to seize the opportunity to commence peace talks, with the release of prisoners as the first step. But he said in a statement Sunday that he expected “the Taliban to stick to their pledge not to allow released prisoners to return to the battleground”.
I welcome the announcements by the Taliban and the Afghan government of a three-day Eid ceasefire. This presents a tremendous opportunity for Afghans to overcome other obstacles and move urgently to intra Afghan negotiations that end the war.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 24, 2020
He also urged the two sides to avoid escalating violence after Eid.
Analysts, however, say the Taliban have been heartened with the US peace deal and the Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since it was signed, killing 420 civilians and wounding 906.
Earlier, on February 29, a peace treaty between the US and the Taliban was signed in Doha, Qatar. As a confidence-building measure, the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 prisoners, while the Afghan government agreed to free 5,000 Taliban insurgents and supporters.