Nicholas Kay,UN Special Representative to the Secretary General, answers questions during an event held on 9th April by the European Union and UNMAS to declear Central Mogadishu free of Unexploded Ordnance. AU/UN-IST PHOTO / David Mutua

Prisoners’ release is authority of Afghan government, says NATO envoy

NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, Sir Nicholas Kay, has said that authority of Taliban prisoner swap lies with the Afghan government.  He has reiterated that the issue of Taliban prisoners has nothing to do with NATO as they are kept under the custody of the Afghan government.

Remarks by top NATO’s official comes amid dispute raised over prisoner exchange between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States 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,” part of the deal reads.

In his first presser after the deal, President Ghani, however, said that the Afghan government has not made any commitment to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners and had repeatedly shared its position with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Meanwhile, in a series of tweets posted earlier this morning, March 05, Khalilzad reiterated that US is committed to facilitating prisoner exchange, agreed in both US-Taliban agreement and US-Afghanistan joint declaration. “We will support each side to release significant numbers,” he added.

On February 29 while the US-Taliban deal was being in Doha, Qatar, the Afghan government and the US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, issued a joint declaration in Kabul. The declaration stipulates that Afghan government will participate in a US-facilitated talks with the Taliban representatives to discuss prisoners’ exchange.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will participate in a US-facilitated discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides,” part of the declaration reads.

On the other hand, Khalilzad pointing out to an increase of violence by the Taliban militants after expiration of a seven-day partial truce in Afghanistan, said, “Increasing violence is a threat to the peace agreement and must be reduced immediately.”

Taliban attacks provoked US forces to conduct “defensive airstrike” on positions of the militants in Nahr-e-Seraj district of the southern Helmand province.