President Ashraf Ghani, who reported speaking on the phone with US President Donald Trump on Saturday phone, told CNN during an interview on Sunday that Trump has not asked him to release the Taliban prisoners.
“I received a phone call from President Trump today, congratulating me on yesterday’s important developments with regards to the evolving peace process. Trump expressed his confidence in the Afghan govt’s leadership and state capacity to lead the next steps in process,” President Ghani tweeted.
During the CNN interview, in a response to a question about the discussed release of 5,000 prisoners, Ghani said:
“President Trump is not asking me to release these people. We have not made a commitment to release them,” Ghani said, adding that “It’s a sovereign Afghan decision.”
He also said that the wording used in the agreement is that the US would facilitate. “We have made it very clear to Ambassador (Zalmay) Khalilzad (the US peace envoy for Afghanistan) that the political capital and the consensus in the country that would be necessary for such a major step does not exist today.”
“We need to see that significant issues, a permanent ceasefire discussion of this special relationship of the Taliban to the countries that provide them sanctuary, especially Pakistan, their relationship with all terrorist organizations, relationships –not just Al-Qaeda–their relationship with drug cartels, and, most fundamentally, the basic rights of the people of Afghanistan, the place of our security forces and our civilian administration are all discussed,” he mentioned.
“It is very clearly conveyed to them that they cannot put preconditions. Just technically it’s not possible to release 5,000 prisoners,” he added.
“It’s a painstaking process, each person needs to be checked, and in return–for what? We need to understand that the Afghan people have to see continuous commitment, not a sense of false claims of victory because all our forces and our government capabilities are intact,” according to Ghani.
On Saturday, Taliban’s top negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai in an interview after the signing of US and Taliban agreement said that: “The intra-Afghan talks will start on March 10, once 5,000 of our hostages who are imprisoned in different parts of the country are released.”
“If the prisoners are not released on time than the intra-Afghan talks will be delayed,” Stanikzai said, adding that “the US has guaranteed to free the prisoners.”
On Saturday, Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of Taliban, signed the peace agreement at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, Qatar following 18 months of negotiations.
At the ceremony, foreign ministers and representatives of almost 30 countries and international organizations attended.
The agreement was signed following a successful weeklong period of a reduction in violence which was announced on February 22.
There are currently about 13,000 US troops in Afghanistan, which will be reduced to 8,600 within 135 days according to the plan, if conditions are met.