The Afghan government will release 900 Taliban terrorists by the end of Tuesday, sources in Afghanistan’s National Security Council told Khaama Press on Tuesday.
This follows the government’s release of 100 Taliban prisoners on Monday. On Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani promised to release a total of 2,000 Taliban members from prison in response to a “goodwill gesture” by the Taliban, who ordered a reportedly unexpected three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan during the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday this past weekend.
In its statement on Sunday, the Office of the President (the ARG) said: “the AFG [Afghan] government is extending the offer of peace [by the Taliban] and is taking further steps to ensure the success of the peace process.”
On Monday, the ARG released a statement saying that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken with President Ghani over the phone on Sunday night to praise the government’s prisoner release:
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a telephone conversation with President Ghani and Chairman of the National Reconciliation High Council Dr. Abdullah Abdullah last night. In this conversation, Mike Pompeo praised the Afghan government for welcoming the Taliban’s ceasefire during the Eid holidays. He also thanked President Ghani for initiating the process of releasing 2,000 Taliban prisoners. The U.S. insists that a long-term ceasefire be established in Afghanistan and that face-to-face talks begin.
On Saturday, President Ghani asked for members of Afghan security forces currently held by the Taliban to be released in return.
The reciprocal gestures of “goodwill” by both sides this week serve as a major step forward in Afghanistan’s peace process. On February 29, the U.S. agreed to a peace deal with the Taliban that called for a “confidence-building measure” in the form of a mutual prisoner exchange between the jihadis and the Afghan government. A key provision for the exchange was communication between both sides. This has been repeatedly hindered by the Taliban, which considers itself to be Afghanistan’s true ruler and refuses to recognize Afghanistan’s official government as legitimate.
The exchange calls for the Afghan government to eventually release a total of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and for the jihadis to release 1,000 Afghan security force members.