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March 4, 2020

Ashraf Ghani asks Taliban to break ties with Pakistan for prisoners’ release

Top Story

March 4, 2020

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday linked the release of Taliban prisoners with the group breaking ties with neighboring Pakistan.

Addressing a public gathering in the eastern Nangarhar province, Ghani said the Afghan Taliban could notjustify their insurgency after inking a peace deal with the US. “You [Taliban leaders] have made peace with the foreigners so what does your jihad mean now … killing of fellow Afghans is a crime,” said Ghani, who has expressed reservations over the peace agreement.

"If the Taliban have set release of their prisoners as a condition for intra-Afghan talks, we also have conditions; they should tell me when are they going to leave [break ties with] Pakistan." The landmark deal signed in Doha, Qatar on Feb. 29 lays out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months. The agreement is expected to lead to dialogue between the Taliban and the Kabul government, seeking an end to the armed conflict that began in 2001, reported international media on Tuesday.

The Taliban agreed to halt attacks in the war-torn country in return for a prisoner swap and the US lifting sanctions against them. Ghani has objected to these arrangements that would see the Afghan government releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a condition for direct talks between the two sides.

The Taliban, meanwhile, announced it was resuming attacks on Afghan forces after implementing a 7-day “Reduction in Violence” pact last week. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Anadolu Agency that the proposed intra-Afghan talks would only begin once their prisoners were freed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghan citizens took to the streets in various cities to protest the Taliban announcement. The UN, EU, and the US, on the other hand, urged the insurgents to abide by the peace agreement that was reached after years of negotiations between multiple stakeholders, including Pakistan.

“Following the Taliban’s reported resumption of military operations, the UN calls for continued reduced violence to maintain & enhance an environment conducive to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, which should lead to a permanent ceasefire and a lasting political settlement,” said the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Later Tuesday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry submitted a formal protest to Pakistan, saying it “strongly condemned” Qureshi’s remarks. “The Government of Afghanistan believes that relying on policies of good-neighborliness, Pakistan needs to take practical steps towards enhancing bilateral ties in various areas and refrain from making such irresponsible statements regarding the internal affairs of Afghanistan," it said.

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