Taliban insists prisoner release process not completed by Kabul
Kabul, Sep 8 (efe-epa).- The Taliban said on Tuesday that the process to release its fighters held by the government, a precursor to intra-Afghan negotiations, has not been concluded yet, even though Kabul had released most of the 400 remaining prisoners belonging to the group last week.
The release of some of the militants has been held back due to diplomatic pressures by international allies.
“#Clarification: Release process of Islamic Emirate’s prisoners has not yet concluded. Some prisoners are still being held & talks underway,” to release them, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted.
However he added that “other than that, our team is ready for negotiations.”
The new spokesperson of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, Mohammad Naeem, also tweeted that it was necessary to free the remaining prisoners to conclude the prisoner release and kick off the long-awaited talks to end more than two decades of war in Afghanistan.
Afghan authorities have not clarified how many prisoners remain in their custody, although initially Australia and France had expressed their reservations over the release of six or seven fighters.
In mid-August, Paris had urged Kabul to not release some Taliban fighters accused of committing crimes against French soldiers or humanitarian workers, while a similar request was also made by Canberra.
Peace negotiations with the Taliban were originally supposed to begin on March 10 after the militant group signed a historic agreement with the United States in February, which mandates the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 14 months.
Under the terms of the US-Taliban pact, the Afghan government was to release 5,000 jailed militant leaders and the insurgent group was to free 1,000 of its captives as a precursor to intra-Afghan talks.
The Taliban have urged the government to fulfill its part of the pact after claiming to have released all 1,000 government personnel in late July.
However, the two sides dragged on with the prisoner exchange program since the Taliban insisted that the government must release some 400 of battle-hardened fighters, who were held back by authorities due to their criminal record.
The differences over these jailed controversial Taliban fighters were finally resolved last month in a local council, known as loya jirga, which approved their release.
On the other hand, the government had also called for the release of a last group of prisoners still held by the rebels, numbering 22 according to official sources, who were finally freed on Thursday along with Kabul releasing most of the remaining 400 militants. EFE-EPA