Afghanistan‘s president rejected peace deal‘s timeline for a prisoner release

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The FINANCIAL — The deal, signed by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s political chief, Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, aims to end America’s longest war, but Afghanistan’s president publicly rejected the timeline for a prisoner swap with the Taliban on Sunday, just one day after signing a peace deal. The confusion over their fate stems in part from a difference in language between a statement released by the US on Saturday in Kabul, and the US-Taliban agreement.

A landmark deal between the United States and Taliban aimed at ending the US’s longest war may already be facing obstacles as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that his government had not agreed to a clause set out in the deal. Ghani objected to arrangements within the deal that would see the Afghan government release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a condition for direct talks between the armed group and the government, Al Jazeera reported.

US president Donald Trump declared that talks with the Taliban were “dead” in September. But after nine halting rounds of negotiations, the US signed a peace deal with Taliban leaders on Saturday aiming to secure the withdrawal of all US and allied troops from Afghanistan. However on Sunday, there were already signs that the fragile breakthrough would be hard to keep alive. The US has agreed to withdraw all its military forces from Afghanistan, including contractors, trainers and advisers, within 14 months. All coalition partners, including Nato, will also withdraw their 39,000 troops in this timeframe, Financial Times wrote.

“The United States is committed to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides,” reads an important portion of the agreement. ”Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations”. In exchange for the removal of U.S. troops, the lifting of sanctions and the freeing of prisoners, the Taliban has agreed to permanently sever all ties with terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and to never allow Afghanistan to be used as a home base for extremist organizations. The Taliban also has agreed to formal talks with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which until now the Taliban has refused to recognize as legitimate. Those talks will begin March 10 in Norway, according to The Washington Times.

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There are currently about 12,000 U.S. forces in the country, tasked with counter-terrorism efforts, training Afghan troops and providing air support for Afghan ground forces. On Sunday, Afghan President told a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, that a prisoner release was not a promise the United States could make, according to The Associated Press. “The request has been made by the United States for the release of prisoners and it can be part of the negotiations but it cannot be a precondition,” said Ghani. The Afghan president’s statements are an early potential setback for the U.S. peace deal, National Public Radio wrote.

The confusion over their fate stems in part from a difference in language between a statement released by the US on Saturday in Kabul, and the US-Taliban agreement. The deal reached in Doha states that the US will “work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release” prisoners, before adding that the release will happen by the 10th March start of “intra-Afghan talks”. However, the US-Afghan joint declaration released on the same day simply says the US will facilitate between the government and Taliban on the “feasibility” of prisoner release. More than 2,400 American troops have been killed during the conflict. US President Donald Trump, who had promised to end the Afghan conflict, said on Saturday that it was “time to bring our people back home”. Mr Trump said 5,000 US troops would leave Afghanistan by May and he would meet Taliban leaders in the near future, BBC reported.


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