After what looked like an extremely difficult task, the Afghan government and the Taliban are on the brink of reaching an agreement which would allow badly needed peace talks between the two parties...
After what looked like an extremely difficult task, the Afghan government and the Taliban are on the brink of reaching an agreement which would allow badly needed peace talks between the two parties to go ahead. The breakthrough in the deadlock between the two sides took place after thousands of prominent Afghans approved the release of about 400 militant prisoners. The matter was decided at a three-day 'Loya Jirga' of tribal elders and other stakeholders held to decide on the controversial issues. The Afghan government had previously released over 4,000 prisoners. However, the matter of the last 400 prisoners, who are accused of involvement in acts of serious terrorism, had held back the peace talks. Now Abdullah Abdullah, who is leading the government’s peace process as head of the Loya Jirga has said the peace talks will begin now. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to sign a decree under which the prisoners will be released.
There is some anxiety in Afghanistan over these developments. Recently security forces in the country have arrested 11 members of Islamic State who had allegedly planned to attack the Loya Jirga. The prisoners the Afghan government had been reluctant to release include those involved in high-profile attacks including the 2018 attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul that killed 40 people. Other prisoners are accused of murdering a French aid worker in 2003. Her family has said they would not accept the release of her killers. Other activists in Afghanistan have also warned that the release of the prisoners involved in heinous crimes is unacceptable. The situation highlights the difficult position Afghanistan finds itself placed in.
While a hope for peace talks has been raised, there is concern that the release of persons who are considered to be dangerous terrorists could add to instability and law and order problems within the country. The US has been pressing Kabul to agree to the release simply to suit its own purposes. These purposes change depending on Washington’s particular needs at a given time. It is unfortunate that the people of Afghanistan have become hostage to Washington’s demands. While peace is obviously desired, the question of what cost it should come at is a matter that means careful consideration and debate by the people of Afghanistan themselves.