Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a known critic of Pakistan, has urged the Taliban to break ties with Pakistan first to commence the intra-Afghan dialogue to be followed by prisoner swap.
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Addressing a public gathering in the eastern Nangarhar province, Ghani said the Afghan Taliban could not justify their insurgency after inking a peace deal with the US. “You [Taliban leaders] have made peace with the foreigners so what does your jihad mean now … killing of fellow Afghans is a crime,” said Ghani.
“If the Taliban have set release of their prisoners as a condition for intra-Afghan talks, we also have conditions; they should tell me when are they going to leave [break ties with] Pakistan.”
Ghani has opposed to the deal that would see the Afghan government releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1000 Afghan officials as a condition for direct talks between the two sides. Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Anadolu Agency that the proposed intra-Afghan talks would only begin once their prisoners were freed.
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Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghan citizens took to the streets in various cities to protest the Taliban announcement. The UN, EU, and the US, on the other hand, urged the insurgents to abide by the peace agreement that was reached after years of negotiations between multiple stakeholders, including Pakistan.
“Following the Taliban’s resumption of military operations, the UN calls for continued reduced violence to maintain & enhance an environment conducive to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, which should lead to a permanent ceasefire and a lasting political settlement,” said the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Earlier, on February 29, a peace treaty between the US and the Taliban was signed in Doha. According to the peace deal, the intra-Afghan talks are deemed to begin on March 10. As a confidence-building measure, the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 prisoners, while the Kabul government is to free 5,000 Taliban supporters before March 10.
“The Afghan government has not made any commitment to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of any potential negotiation,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Ghani, adding that the prisoner exchange “cannot be a requisite for talks”, and instead should be part of the negotiations.