Afghan government sources told Afghanistan’s Tolo News that Western governments are delaying the release of the final 400 Taliban prisoners that need to be released to pave the way for intra-Afghan talks. The sources said the US, France, and Australia oppose the release of some of the Taliban inmates.
France has publicly asked the Afghan government not to release Taliban fighters that have been convicted of killing French citizens. Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he lobbied President Trump to help prevent the release of a former Afghan soldier who killed three Australian soldiers in 2012.
The release of the remaining Taliban prisoners is the last hurdle for peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to begin. So far, the government has released 5,000 prisoners. Last week, Afghanistan’s tribal council, the Loya Jirga, voted in favor of releasing the remaining 400 “hardcore” prisoners, Taliban fighters who have been convicted of serious offenses.
“I am sorry that we are in a country that freeing prisoners involved in the killing of 10 to 15 foreigners is criticized but in Afghanistan we have lost thousands of our youth, but we released 5,000 individuals,” said Nilofar Ibrahimi, an Afghan MP.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for the Afghan peace process, condemned a recent attack on a member of the Afghan negotiating team and called for talks to start. “I call on all sides who seek peace to not only condemn the attack but to accelerate the peace process and start intra-Afghan negotiations as soon as possible,” Khalilzad said.