On Sunday, Afghanistan’s tribal council, the Loya Jirga, approved the release of 400 Taliban prisoners in an effort to hurry the peace process and start talks between the government and the Taliban.
The US-Taliban peace deal requires the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a precondition for intra-Afghan talks. The Taliban provided the government with a list of prisoners to release. So far, Kabul has released 4,600 from that list and an additional 500 inmates who were not on the list.
The remaining 400 Taliban prisoners have all been convicted or accused of serious crimes, and 156 of them have been sentenced to death. Because of the seriousness of their offenses, the government has been reluctant to release this group. But now, with the Loya Jirga voting to set the inmates free, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced his intention to do so.
“Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners,” Ghani said after the Loya Jirga vote. Intra-Afghan talks were set to begin in March under the peace deal. Although the talks have been significantly delayed, it looks like both sides are now ready to come to the table.
A Taliban spokesman told BBC Pashto that the group is ready to begin intra-Afghan talks within a week, as long as the prisoner release is complete. Talks are expected to start in Doha sometime next week.