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April 8, 2020

Taliban suspend talks with Afghan govt for prisoners exchange

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April 8, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Afghan peace process suffered another setback as Taliban suspended talks with the Afghan government for prisoners’ exchange and called their three-member delegation back to Doha from Kabul after accusing the Kabul administration for creating hurdles in the peace process.

Senior Taliban leaders in Doha and Afghanistan told The News they had sent the delegation to Kabul for identification and verification of their 5,000 prisoners as the US had pledged to get them released in exchange for the Afghan government’s 1,000 prisoners.

The decision was made in the peace deal signed by US and Afghan Taliban in Doha on February 29.

According to Taliban sources, they had given lists of their 5,000 prisoners to the US and Afghan authorities and it was decided that Taliban would send a delegation of their prisoners’ commission to Kabul to identify and verify their prisoners in jails.

Taliban said they had demanded of the Afghan government to first release their 15 prisoners, whose names were included in the list of 5,000 prisoners, so that could assist their three-member team to identify and verify their prisoners.

Taliban said the Afghan government was aware that those 15 prisoners were not senior level commanders but it didn’t want to free them.

“They aren’t senior commanders. They are in fact the people who know each and every Taliban prisoner and we wanted them to help our three-member team in identification and verification of our prisoners,” Taliban spokesman SuhailShaheen told The News from Doha.

He said they called their delegation back from Kabul and suspended talks with the Afghan government on prisoners’ exchange.

He said they had shared names of these 15 prisoners and they were part of the 5,000 prisoners that the US and Afghan government had promised to release soon.

Taliban argument was that since members of their delegation sent to Kabul were not able to identify all their prisoners, they decided to seek help of their old people in the jails to assist them.

Taliban said that in jails, their prisoners had formed different committees for issues related to prisoners, and that they know each and every prisoner, their caste, tribe and native areas.

Suhail Shaheen said the Afghan government proved it was not sincere in resolving the Afghan conflict.

In Doha, another Taliban leader told The News that they knew that the Afghan government, particularly President Dr Ashraf Ghani would create hurdles in the prisoners exchange to prolong his stay in power.

He said their leaders held an emergency meeting in Doha Tuesday night and decided to suspend process for prisoners’ exchange with the Afghan government and call their team back to Qatar.

Suhail Shaheen said the reason Taliban wanted to involve their 15 prisoners in the identification and verification process was their fear that the Kabul administration could even count criminals and smugglers in jails and put them in their lists.

He said they had never demanded of the Afghan government to release those 15 and let them go.

“Our demand was actually very simple and we wanted the Afghan administration to free our 15 prisoners and allow them to facilitate our three-member team in their work and return to their cells in the prison in the evening. It proved the Afghan government doesn’t want to resolve the Afghan conflict,” said the Taliban spokesman. “The Afghan government is aware that these 15 prisoners are not senior commanders but they know their importance in a sense that they would help our team to identify and verify our prisoners,” he said.