Afghanistan, Taliban in cease-fire agreement, releases 2,000 prisoner
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has disclosed plan to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners after welcoming an offer by the militants of a three-day cease-fire to mark Eid al-Fitr.
The president disclosed this on Sunday May 24, 2020 in an address to the nation marking Eid al-Fitr.
“As a responsible government we take one more step forward. I announce that I will expedite the Taliban prisoner releases,” Ghani said.
He also urged the Taliban to press ahead with the release of Afghan security personnel they hold.
Afghanistan’s government is extending the offer of peace and is taking further steps to ensure success of the peace process.
In February, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the longest military action in U.S. history.
The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for security commitments from the Taliban.
It also stipulates that Kabul must free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the militants are to release 1,000 captives, a move expected to lead to intra-Afghan negotiations.
The Taliban on May 23 announced the cease-fire would start the following day.
Shortly afterward, Ghani ordered security forces to abide by the cease-fire as well.
In a post on Twitter, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid said the movement’s leadership has ordered all fighters to “conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere.”
Zalmay Khalizad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, described the cease-fire as “a momentous opportunity” to accelerate a stalled U.S.-Taliban peace process.
“Other positive steps should immediately follow: the release of remaining prisoners as specified in the U.S.-Taliban agreement by both sides, no returning to high levels of violence, and an agreement on a new date for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Khalizad wrote on Twitter.
The United States has about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Washington pays about $4 billion a year to maintain the Afghan military.
Afghan intelligence service spokesman, Javid Faisal, said on May 23 that at least 146 civilians were killed and 430 wounded in Taliban attacks during Ramadan.