Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday announced the upcoming release of 175 Taliban narco-jihadis in an apparent gesture of goodwill towards the inclusion of Kabul in U.S.-led peace talks with the reluctant terrorist group.
The Taliban has repeatedly refused to allow Kabul to participate in the negotiations.
Ghani made the Taliban prisoner release announcement while addressing the closing ceremony of the Grand Consultative Jirga on Peace on Friday.
Made up of nearly 3,200 delegates, the traditional council, or loya jirga, met this week in Kabul to discuss the peace process.
The council concluded by urging the Taliban to engage in a ceasefire with Kabul.
According to Khaama Press (KP), Ghani called on the Taliban to declare a truce during the looming holy Muslim month of Ramadan. However, the Taliban rejected the proposal, arguing that fatally castigating infidels is exceptionally rewarded during the holiest month for Muslims.
TOLO News quoted Ghani as saying on Friday:
I am ready to implement your [the Peace Jirga delegates’] legitimate demand which is a ceasefire. I see the courage and power in the [Afghan] National Defense and Security Forces [ANDSF] lines to implement the discipline of a ceasefire. If the Taliban is ready for a ceasefire in a way, we can work on technical details of it. … We are ready to provide the ground for [the] Taliban to be part of the country’s development. It is a friendly suggestion.
Later that day, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, responded to Ghani’s comments in a statement posted on Twitter.
“As jihad is … the best of part of worship, doing it on Ramadan is rewarded more than in other months,” he wrote.
Many Islamists believe that Ramadan is a time when God especially rewards jihad. The holy month has regularly triggered a spike in attacks by the Taliban and other terrorist groups across the world.
The Taliban spokesman noted that it is every Afghans’ responsibility to wage jihad against the foreign occupiers, explaining in the statement:
Based on explicit Qur’an texts, every single person of this nation must wage jihad against the occupiers. As long as the occupation has not been completely thwarted and there is no path towards the establishment of a true and pure Islamic system jihad is a must and no one can stop it. The rules of the Islamic religion are fixed.
Dismissing Kabul as an American “puppet,” the Taliban has long considered itself the only legitimate government of Afghanistan.
Since the war began in October 2001, the Taliban has been fighting to establish an Islamic emirate ruled by strict laws known as sharia.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the United States has made the political reconciliation between the Taliban and Kabul the primary tenet of its strategy to end the more than 17-year-old war. However, the Taliban last month postponed talks with Kabul indefinitely despite insistence by the United States and other countries that they allow the Afghan government to participate.
In its statement issued Friday, the Taliban maintained that it would engage in negotiations with Kabul after it reaches an agreement with the United States.
So far, the U.S. and the Taliban have agreed on a draft proposal — the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for counterterrorism assurances from the terrorist group.
Mujahid claimed that the Taliban is planning to release more than 100 of its prisoners.
The Taliban has repeatedly rejected Ghani’s olive branch offer of a ceasefire and official recognition as a legitimate political party, a move that could grant the terrorist group the opportunity to return to power in Kabul.
U.S. troops removed the Taliban regime from office in late 2001, soon after invading the country in October of that year, in response to the group’s decision to shelter al-Qaeda ahead of the September 11 attacks.
The Taliban has intensified attacks amid peace negotiations.
Taliban jihadis control or contest about half of Afghanistan where more than 35 percent of the population resides, marking the highest level of influence achieved by the group since U.S. troops removed it from office at the end of 2001.
“We are ready to provide the ground for Taliban to be part of the country’s development. It is a friendly suggestion,” Ghani proclaimed.
Late last month, Voice of America (VOA) revealed that Russia and China joined the Trump administration in trying to cajole the terrorist group into talks with Kabul.
“Russia, the United States and China will this week try to press Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents to hold talks with Afghan politicians and civilians, an important step in a process aimed at ending the Afghan war,” VOA reported on April 24.