Taliban Suspends Peace Deal With Afghan Government After Ghani Refuses To Release Top Commanders

The peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have been called off in the first step itself when both the sides were negotiating prisoner swap agreements. 

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In a tweet first sent in Pashto, the Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said its technical team would not participate in “fruitless meetings”, and the release of their inmates was being “delayed under one pretext or another”.

“Therefore, our technical team will not participate in fruitless meetings with relevant sides starting from tomorrow,” Shaheen, who is based in Doha, said in a subsequent tweet in English.

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Earlier, the Trump administration had signed a historic peace deal with the Taliban in late February where the Afghan government – which was not a signatory to the accord – was to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 government hostages.

Taliban and Afghan government representatives have been negotiating in Kabul since last week to try to conclude the prisoner swap that was originally planned for March 10.

Matin Bek, a member of the government’s negotiating team, said the release had been suspended because the Taliban are demanding the release of 15 “top commanders”. “We cannot release the killers of our people,” Bek stated. “We don’t want them to go back to the battleground and capture a whole province.”

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Bek added that they were ready to free up to 400 low-threat Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in return for a “considerable” reduction in violence, but the Taliban declined that offer.