Kabul hosts Taliban delegation amid political crisis
The Afghan government hosted a three-member delegation of the Taliban on Tuesday, March 31, in the capital Kabul, to discuss a prisoner swap modus operandi in face-to-face meeting, the country’s national security council said in a tweet. The Office of National Security Council confirmed that a technical committee of the Peace Initial Contact Group (PICG) hosted a Taliban technical delegation in Kabul to discuss prisoner release.
The meeting comes while the two sides held several video calls to discuss issues related to prisoner exchange. The Taliban claim that as many as 1,000 prisoners of the Afghan government are detained in detention centers run by the militant group albeit senior Afghan security officials have contradicted the figures claimed by the Taliban.
Under the US-Taliban peace deal, the Afghan government has
to release up to 5,000 Taliban inmates in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces
who are kept in Taliban-run prisons as part of a confidence-building measure
between the Taliban militants and the Afghan government.
“The PICG technical committee and the Taliban delegation made progress on technical matters and will reconvene tomorrow for more negotiations,” reads a tweet by the Office of National Security Council (ONSC).
Under the agreement, the prisoner swap will be observed by International
Committee of the Red Cross, US, and Qatar.
Prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban
is a multi-layered disputed issue, with each side of the deadly war trying to
gain more before sitting face-to-face around a peace table, titled as the
intra-Afghan talks. On March 01, a day
after the US-Taliban deal was signed in Doha, President Ashraf Ghani announced
that his government would release Taliban prisoners on certain condition. The
Taliban should commit a truce and put an end to violence, he said.
The Taliban fighters, however, continued to attack Afghan security
forces. On March 20, a group of armed men, assisted by infiltrator from within
the Afghan police, killed 17 Afghan security forces including army personnel in
southern Zabul province which is a stronghold of the Taliban. A Taliban spokesperson
claimed responsibility for the attack.
On March 28, the Taliban insurgents launched a series of
attacks in northern provinces of Faryab, Kunduz and Badakhshan, inflicting
heavy causalities on Afghan security forces. On March 30, the insurgents
attacked Afghan security forces in the south, reportedly killing 11 Afghan soldiers.
The Afghan security authorities said rebels attacked on security checkpoint in
Arghandab district of southern Helmand province, another Taliban stronghold.
The Taliban refused to take responsibility for the attack.
In northern Baghlan province, at least five Afghan policemen
were killed when their checkpoint came under Taliban attack, a member of
provincial council said. Six others were wounded he confirmed.
Hints of progress in prisoner swap between the Afghan
government and the Taliban appear at a time when the country is swamped in
squabbling political crisis and threatened by fatal outbreak of Covid-19. The
country’s political turmoil has divided Afghan political factions at a critical
time when Washington tries to pull out troops and the Taliban struggle to tilt
the balance in their favor. Latest official record shows that 169 people have
tested positive for Covid-19 and four patients—infected by the deadly pandemic coronavirus—have
Though the US and NATO officials have made attempts to bring
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullha on terms to form
an inclusive government, little has been achieved as the two sides still stick
to their squabbling positions.