The Taliban released another group of 28 prisoners of the Afghan government in western Herat province late Saturday, said Suhail Shaheen, spokesman of the Taliban’s political office in Doha.
So far the Taliban has released 148 government prisoners, according to Shaheen.
The National Security Council’s office’s spokesman Javid Faisal on Saturday said that the Afghan government had released 1,000 Taliban prisoners and “now it is the Taliban’s turn to accelerate the release of ANDSF prisoners,” stop “killing Afghans” and start face-to-face talks soon.
Faisal said the government released the prisoners “to fight COVID-19 and advance peace,” and that those released “vowed to remain peaceful.” Faisal, speaking to the Taliban, said: “Delays are no longer justifiable.”
500 more Taliban will be released in upcoming days, according to the NSC.
The Afghan government made an earlier pledge to release a total of 5,000 Taliban prisoners but only after the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations, and if violence was reduced in a way that leads to a countrywide ceasefire.
Recently, the Taliban in a statement welcomed the move and called for an expedited release of their prisoners to “save them” from the coronavirus and pave the way for the intra-Afghan negotiations.
The process continues amid hopes for beginning intra-Afghan negotiations, which have been delayed over issues around the prisoner release and other matters.
On Wednesday, The US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with the Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Qatar and discussed the prisoner release, intra-Afghan talks and the US-Taliban peace agreement, the Taliban’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen said.
The US-Taliban deal called for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 government prisoners, and for the Afghan government to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners before peace talks that were to begin on March 10.