Afghan president hopeful of a peace treaty with Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday that peace talks with the Taliban could begin “in a week’s time,” following the completion of a crucial prisoner exchange.

“To demonstrate the government’s commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic will soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners,” Ghani told senior officials at the presidential palace.

“With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time,” he added, speaking in English.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Meanwhile, the Taliban announced on Tuesday that they will observe a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan for the Muslim occasion of Eid al-Adha, starting Friday, the group’s spokesman said.

“In order for our people to spend the three days of Eid in confidence and happiness, all fighters are instructed not to carry out any operations,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter.

However, he added that if Taliban fighters come under attack from government forces, they will retaliate. Violence in Afghanistan has increased over recent weeks as the prisoner exchange between the Afghan government and Taliban has stalled.

The prisoner exchange issue, agreed to under a deal between the U.S. and the Taliban earlier this year, has been a major sticking point ahead of the intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Afghan government is supposed to release up to 5,000 Taliban fighters, while the armed group has pledged to free 1,000 Afghan security forces in their custody, according to the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

People inspect a police vehicle which was hit by magnetic bomb in Kabul
People inspect a police vehicle which was hit by magnetic bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan July 28, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

The Taliban said last week that it was prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month straight after the holiday of Eid al-Adha, if the prisoner swap is completed.

Kabul had released about 4,400 Taliban captives. The armed group said it had freed 864 government inmates.

The Taliban is “likely… ready to begin intra-Afghan negotiations immediately after Eid in case the process of the release of the prisoners is completed,” the armed group’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.

Taliban ready to swap 20 Afghan prisoners for 100 fighters

On Wednesday, the Taliban’s spokesman revealed that the militant group had discussed the details of the release of its prisoners by the Afghan government, identifying a list of 5,000 jailed members it wanted to free.

The Taliban will release 20 Afghan security member in exchange for its 100 jailed militants, Reuters reported, citing a senior Afghan security official.

Details later.

Taliban expecting a peace deal with the US

Talks with the Taliban are set to resume on Doha, the Qatar capital.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, arrived in Doha on Friday night.

“Just got to #Doha to resume talks with the Taliban. We are pursuing a #peace agreement not a withdrawal agreement; a peace agreement that enables withdrawal,” Khalilzad tweeted soon after arriving.

Khalilzad spent Thursday in Pakistan, following President Trump’s recent meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House.

It is understood Khalilzad met with Khan (pictured), also with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chief of army staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on his stop-over at Islamabad, the Pakistan capital.

Prime Minister Khan reportedly reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to engage with the Taliban and assist the U.S. and other stakeholders in facilitating the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, according to a statement issued by his office.

It was Pakistan that initiated the current series of negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban. It has also facilitated talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.