Taleban say ready for talks with Kabul after Eid holiday

Suhail Shaheen, Taleban, Afghanistan
Pedestrians walk past as Afghan boys fight playfully in the middle of a street at a market place in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Islamabad - The militant group offers to hand over the last of the government prisoners in a week's time, provided the Afghanistan government frees the last of its Taleban prisoners


Published: Fri 24 Jul 2020, 6:31 PM

Last updated: Fri 24 Jul 2020, 8:50 PM

The Taleban say they are ready for talks with Afghanistan's political leadership after the holiday of Eid Al Adha at the end of July, offering to hand over the last of the government prisoners in a week's time, providing the government frees the last of its Taliban prisoners.
The offer made by Taleban's political spokesman Suhail Shaheen in a tweet late Thursday follows one of the most significant shake-ups in the Taleban in years. The group appointed the son of the movement's fearsome founder to head its military wing and powerful leadership council members to its negotiation team.
In Kabul on Friday, the High Council for National Reconciliation, which was created in May to manage peace efforts with the Taleban, said it was still working through the Taleban's prisoner list.
Javed Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan national security adviser's office, previously said nearly 600 Taleban prisoners whose release is being sought have been convicted of serious crimes. The government is reluctant to set them free, he said.
It seemed unlikely the government would free the remaining Taleban prisoners before the holiday.
The release of 5,000 Taleban prisoners held by the government and 1,000 government personnel and security officials in Taleban custody is laid out in a US deal with the Taleban aimed at ending Afghanistan's relentless wars.
According to the deal, the prisoner exchange is to take place ahead of talks between Kabul and the Taleban, seen as perhaps the most critical part of the deal.
Shaheen's tweet was the first offer at a timeline for the negotiations, however he demanded the prisoner release be completed first and refused any substitutes to the list of prisoners submitted by the Taleban.
Kabul has offered to free alternative Taleban members they have in custody and who they say have not been convicted of serious crimes. The Taleban have refused.
The government's national reconciliation council membership has yet to be decided. It is being led by Abdullah Abdullah, a candidate in last year's presidential election who disputed the results and had for a time declared himself president. He was appointed to head the reconciliation efforts to break the political deadlock over the election, which had frustrated Washington's efforts to get intra-Afghan negotiations off the ground.

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