By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Jul 30 (efe-epa).- The Taliban said Thursday they will complete the release of 1,000 Afghan security forces in their prisons by the end of the day, before the celebrations of the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha kick off.
The release of prisoners is a part of an agreement reached between the United States and the Taliban on Feb.29 in the Qatari capital of Doha to bring an end to nearly two decades of conflict.
“We will be completing the release of 1,000 prisoners of the Kabul administration today (Thursday)” Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen told EFE.
“These steps are being taken in order to pave the way for the beginning of intra-Afghan talks after Eid-ul-Adha,” Shaheen said.
The festival of Eid-ul-Adha, one of the biggest holidays of the Islamic calendar and marked by slaughtering animals such as sheep and goats, begins on Friday and will be celebrated for three days in the country.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid explained to EFE, that they will now have fulfilled “the promise we have made about the release of 1,000 prisoners of the Kabul Administration.”
The US-Taliban agreement, which mandated the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan within 14 months, also stipulated the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government in exchange for around 1,000 government prisoners being released by the insurgents.
This prisoner swap process was a precursor for direct intra-Afghan negotiations, which were originally scheduled to begin on Mar.10, but have been delayed by disagreements between the insurgents and the government in Kabul.
In this regard, Shaheen urged the Afghan government to keep their end of the bargain and release the remaining Taliban prisoners as per the Doha agreement and in keeping with the list provided by them to the government.
The government have released nearly 4,500 Taliban prisoners so far, and have held back 500 prisoners, saying they have serious criminal records such as drug trafficking, murder and even moral crimes.
The authorities have asked the insurgents for another list of prisoners that may be released in their place, but the Taliban have declined the offer.
Although it remains unclear how the deadlock could be broken, President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday promised that his government was committed to completing the prisoner release process soon.
“We look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time. We call on the Taliban to join us at the negotiation table and to concluding promptly there a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Ghani had said.
On several occasions, the Afghan government has blamed the continued violence by the Taliban for the delay in the prisoner release process.
Over 10,000 Afghan security forces have been either killed or injured in Taliban attacks since the sign of the Doha agreement, according to government data.
Earlier this week, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan for Eid al-Adha, a move which was welcomed and reciprocated by the Afghan government, after a similar ceasefire in May on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
While the government has been insisting on a permanent ceasefire or significant reduction in violence, the Taliban has made it clear they will not announce a complete ceasefire before the intra-Afghan talks. EFE-EPA