Afghan president Ashraf Ghani pledged on Sunday to release about 2,000 prisoners the taliban and says he is ready to start peace talks with the insurgents, after having accepted their offer of a cease-fire of three days on the occasion of the Eid-el-Fitr.
These advances sudden come after months of intensifying violence that seemed to have led the peace process between the two camps at the edge of the abyss.
“President Ghani has today launched a procedure for the release of up to 2,000 prisoners the taliban, in a gesture of good will, in response to the announcement by the taliban to a ceasefire during the Eid,” said its spokesman Sediq Sediqqi on Twitter.
Earlier, in his address to the Nation on the occasion of the Eid-el-Fitr, muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of ramadan, Mr. Ghani had said that he was going to ” expedite the release of prisoners, taliban “.
The president had also asked the insurgents to continue to release the members of the afghan security forces they hold.
These releases reciprocal of prisoners are provided for by an agreement signed on 29 February in Doha between Washington and the taliban, but not ratified by Kabul.
This vast exchange of prisoners — up to 5,000 taliban against 1,000 members of the afghan forces — would have had to be completed on 10 march, but has been beset by obstacles. Kabul has released about 1,000 prisoners while the rebels have released about 300.
The agreement also arranges the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in 14 months, provided that the insurgents respect of commitments in terms of security and entering into negotiations with the afghan authorities on the country’s future.
The taliban, who have ceased to attack the foreign troops, but multiply these last weeks onslaught of murderers against the afghan forces, were surprised Saturday evening by declaring unilaterally a cessation of fighting for their fellow citizens “to be able to celebrate in peace and comfort” Aïd-el-Fitr.
The direction of the insurgents ordered his fighters to ” take special measures for the safety of their fellow countrymen, and not to launch offensive operations against the enemy “. But they will be able to defend themselves if they are attacked.
“Stop the carnage “
In a mosque in Kabul on Sunday morning, residents of the capital were also pleased with the announcement of the taliban.
“I’m happy (…) since my birth I have known that the war “, told AFP Nasimi Abidullah, 18 years old, employee in a hair salon, ” but this is not enough, we want a ceasefire and put an end to the carnage in order to obtain a lasting peace in the country “.
Since an international coalition led by the United States drove them from power in late 2001, this is the first time that the taliban call themselves to temporarily land the weapons.
There had been, since then, only one cease-fire, initiated by Mr. Ghani, during the Eid-el-Fitr in 2018.
“Everything that we know in our country is the war and the blood. We have suffered enough and it is time for the taliban to stop killing Afghans, “said Ahmad Farid, a driver of 27 years, saying that it hoped” all sides will respect the ceasefire “.
Next step in the peace process, the opening of negotiations “interafghanes” on the future of the country, which has already more than two months late.
“Now, we want to have direct talks with the taliban as soon as possible in order to stop the slaughter of Afghans and we are absolutely ready for these negotiations “, assured Mr Ghani on Sunday.
Abdullah Abdullah, rival policy of Mr Ghani for years, will lead the peace negotiations, in accordance with the power-sharing agreement signed between the two men on may 17 to close several months of the crisis, born out of the challenge by the first results of the presidential election giving the second winner.
A few days before the announcement of the cease-fire for the Eid-el-Fitr, the taliban leader had confirmed their commitment to respect the agreement with Washington.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy of the United States, welcomed the ceasefire, seeing it as ” an opportunity that should not be missed.”