Intra-Afghan Peace Talks Scheduled to Begin Saturday

Afghan government releases last six prisoners sought by Taliban

Disputes over prisoner release in Afghanistan were finally resolved Thursday, with the last six prisoners sought by the Taliban freed, and the long sought intra-Afghan peace talks formally scheduled for Saturday, in Qatar.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in attendance for the opening ceremony of the talks, and is reported to be flying to Qatar. The US would not be expected to participate directly in these talks, which are meant to sort out power-sharing for the Ghani government and the Taliban in post-war Afghanistan.

The talks were meant to happen quickly after the US-Taliban deal in February, but prisoner releases took a long time, with the Ghani government denying that they’d promised the releases, and the process of getting some released arduously slow. As recently as the past couple of days they were down to just a handful of prisoners.

Not everyone is happy, however, with the French Foreign Ministry issuing a statement of protest over the release of prisoners who had killed French citizens. Two of the six released today were in that category.

After nearly 20 years of war, a lot of the prisoners were accused of a lot of things, and the Ghani government considered many “high risk.” After they’d released thousands of prisoners, however, they were not willing to risk the peace talks over the last few, and finally released everyone.

The peace process is meant work out a lot of issues between the Taliban and government, but with Ghani having downplayed the chances of working out a formal power-sharing deal, there remains a risk that the early talks won’t amount to much.

This risks a resumption of violence, but perhaps more realistically will for the Ghani government to rethink matters. The US continues a drawdown at a steady pace, and the government team will be in a much stronger position if they aren’t negotiating after the US pullout is done.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.