Afghan president vows to expedite Taliban prisoners release after ceasefire offer

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says his government aims to speed up the release of Taliban prisoners, after the militant group offered a three-day ceasefire for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“As a responsible government, we want to move one more step forward: I am announcing that the release of Taliban prisoners will be expedited and we call on the Taliban that they also expedite the release of the security and defense prisoners,” Ghani said in a televised address celebrating the event on Sunday.

Ghani wished a happy Eid al-Fitr to all Afghans and said the peace process required cooperation between the two sides and work to remove its hurdles.

“The winner of peace will be the Afghan people. War brings destruction and misery, especially for Afghan women who suffer the most,” he said. “I once again welcome the ceasefire announced by the Taliban, I also instructed the Afghan Security Forces to observe ceasefire, too.”

The Afghan president also said the government’s negotiating team was ready to start intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible.

Under a deal signed with the United States on February 28, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks on international forces in return for the US military’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and a prisoner exchange with the government in Kabul.

The Afghan government, which was excluded from the talks and was thus not a signatory to the accord, is required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. But it has reduced the number to 1,500 before the talks start. The militants are obliged to free 1,000 government captives in return, but have reportedly freed only 148.

The agreement was supposed to lay the groundwork for a peace process in the war-ravaged Asian country, but the Taliban militant group rejected a government offer of a ceasefire for the duration of Ramadan and continued their attacks.

Washington is compelled under the deal to pull out American forces and foreign troops from Afghanistan by July next year, provided that the militants start talks with Kabul and adhere to other security guarantees.

About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries remain stationed in Afghanistan years.

American forces have since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan remained bogged down in the country through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.

Amid the continued occupation, the Daesh terrorist group has also emerged in the Asian country.

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