‘Afghan govt’s release of Taliban prisoners will continue’

The Afghan government will continue the release of Taliban prisoners in an effort to begin intra-Afghan negotiations and to continue the announced reduction in violence, the National Security Council said.

The council’s announcement on Sunday came after President Ashraf Ghani on May 24 pledged to release 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in response to the Eid ceasefire announced by the Taliban., TOLO News reported.

“The process will continue so that based on President Ghani’s decree, 2,000 prisoners are released,” Council spokesman Javid Faisal said.

So far, the government has released 1,700 detainees of this latest pledged tranche, bringing the total number of Taliban released to 2,700.

The release of prisoners is part of the US-Taliban agreement and is intended to pave the way for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations, for which the Afghan government has shown a readiness to begin.

The Taliban has also released over 420 prisoners, 73 of them during the last few days from Balkh, Logar, Kunduz, Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces.

Also on Sunday, the Presidential Palace says the Afghan government was ready for intra-Afghan negotiations.

“We are fully ready for the process,” TOLO News quoted presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi as saying.

“The negotiation team is ready, and the High Council for National Reconciliation has been established and we are fully ready for beginning the negotiations.”

On Saturday, Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said he hopes the intra-Afghan negotiations will begin in the next week, and he reiterated that the negotiation team and the Afghan government were ready for the process.