What could possibly go wrong?
AU News, Yaoo, May 27, 2020:
Afghan authorities freed hundreds more Taliban prisoners on Tuesday, as calls grew for the militants to extend a ceasefire on its third and final day.
The historic pause in fighting — only the second in nearly 19 years of war — has mostly held across Afghanistan, providing a rare respite from the conflict’s grinding violence.
Authorities said they had released about 900 Taliban prisoners across the country on Tuesday, approximately 600 of them from the notorious Bagram jail near Kabul.
The release is part of a pledge by the Afghan government to free up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners in response to the Taliban’s three-day ceasefire offer, which began Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Abdul Wasi, 27, from Kandahar province, much of which is under Taliban control, said he was a “holy warrior” when he was detained eight years ago.
“I was told … to do jihad until all foreign troops are driven out of our country,” Wasi, sporting a long beard and wearing a traditional baggy shirt-and-trouser shalwar kameez, told AFP moments after he was freed.
He said he was happy about the US-Taliban deal paving the way for all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May next year, and that he wanted a permanent ceasefire.
“If the foreign troops exit, we won’t fight,” he said as he boarded a Kabul-bound bus along with other freed Taliban members.
– Calls to ‘extend the ceasefire’ –
The prisoners had signed written pledges not to return to the battlefield, but freed inmate Qari Mohammadullah vowed to continue fighting if foreign forces remain.
“We don’t want foreigners to stay any longer in our country. They must leave immediately,” Mohammadullah said.
“We will continue our jihad until every single foreign force leaves.”
Each former prisoner was given the equivalent of about $65 in Afghan currency. The buses they had boarded at the prison dropped them in Kabul, where they bid goodbyes to each other and took taxis to their homes.
The release of 900 prisoners marked “good progress,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
He added the group will free a “remarkable” number of Afghan security force personnel, but did not specify when.
Afghan authorities hoped the Taliban would extend the ceasefire so delayed peace talks with the insurgents could begin, National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said.
“If the Taliban are ready to extend the ceasefire, we are ready to continue the ceasefire too,” Faisal told a news conference.
“We hope they release our prisoners so that intra-Afghan peace talks begin as soon as possible… The future depends on the Taliban’s next move,” he said.
The ceasefire has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for talks, which had originally been scheduled to start by March 10.
“Extend the ceasefire. Save lives,” Shaharzad Akbar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said on Twitter.
“End the violence so that we can all focus on making services available to the most vulnerable across the country, on expanding access to human rights, so that we have space to breathe.”
– Kabul pushes for peace talks –
A senior Taliban source earlier told AFP the group could extend the ceasefire by seven days if the government speeds up the release of prisoners.
But insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said he had no information about an extension.
The European Union mission in Afghanistan called for a “permanent and comprehensive humanitarian ceasefire … which can lay the ground for peace negotiations”.
The US-Taliban deal stipulates the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.
Prior to this week’s releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents released about 300 Afghan security force captives.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while welcoming the latest developments, has insisted that freed Taliban prisoners should not return to the battlefield.
President Ashraf Ghani has said his administration is ready to begin peace negotiations, seen as key to ending the war.
Before the ceasefire started, the Taliban claimed multiple deadly attacks against Afghan forces across the country.
But they denied carrying out a gruesome rampage in a maternity hospital in Kabul earlier this month when gunmen shot dead mothers, nurses and newborns.
By Gabrielle Gabrielle Reyes, Breitbart, May 26, 2020:
The Afghan government will release 900 Taliban terrorists by the end of Tuesday, sources in Afghanistan’s National Security Council told Khaama Press on Tuesday.
This follows the government’s release of 100 Taliban prisoners on Monday. On Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani promised to release a total of 2,000 Taliban members from prison in response to a “goodwill gesture” by the Taliban, who ordered a reportedly unexpected three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan during the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday this past weekend.
In its statement on Sunday, the Office of the President (the ARG) said: “the AFG [Afghan] government is extending the offer of peace [by the Taliban] and is taking further steps to ensure the success of the peace process.”
On Monday, the ARG released a statement saying that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken with President Ghani over the phone on Sunday night to praise the government’s prisoner release:
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a telephone conversation with President Ghani and Chairman of the National Reconciliation High Council Dr. Abdullah Abdullah last night. In this conversation, Mike Pompeo praised the Afghan government for welcoming the Taliban’s ceasefire during the Eid holidays. He also thanked President Ghani for initiating the process of releasing 2,000 Taliban prisoners. The U.S. insists that a long-term ceasefire be established in Afghanistan and that face-to-face talks begin.
On Saturday, President Ghani asked for members of Afghan security forces currently held by the Taliban to be released in return.
The reciprocal gestures of “goodwill” by both sides this week serve as a major step forward in Afghanistan’s peace process. On February 29, the U.S. agreed to a peace deal with the Taliban that called for a “confidence-building measure” in the form of a mutual prisoner exchange between the jihadis and the Afghan government. A key provision for the exchange was communication between both sides. This has been repeatedly hindered by the Taliban, which considers itself to be Afghanistan’s true ruler and refuses to recognize Afghanistan’s official government as legitimate.
The exchange calls for the Afghan government to eventually release a total of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and for the jihadis to release 1,000 Afghan security force members.
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