The US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells in a tweet said on Wednesday that the Afghan leaders must prioritize and protect the unity of the nation, saying that “parallel Afghan governments are not the answer, and will be harmful to the Afghan people.”
In the meantime, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Wednesday said the US would like to see the prisoner release begin as soon as possible, in line with the US-Taliban peace agreement.
“No prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides,” Khalilzad added in a series of tweets on Wednesday, referring to the prisoner swap that was mentioned in the US-Taliban peace deal and expected to happen as a “confidence building” measure to open the door for intra-Afghan talks.
“Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides, the United States understands,” Khalilzad said.
The US envoy noted that technical teams from both sides can work together and focus on technical steps to begin the prisoner release as soon as possible, adding “I will participate in the initial meetings.”
“While preferable to meet face-to-face, coronavirus and the resulting travel restrictions likely requires virtual engagement for now; we call on all sides to avoid provocative media statements,” Khalilzad said.
He said: “The Taliban commit that released prisoners will abide by the commitments made in the peace agreement and not return to the battlefield.”
“A violation will undermine the peace process. The time has come to move forward on prisoner releases,” Khalilzad concluded.
The US-Taliban deal signed in Qatar on Feb. 28 calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners to open the way for intra-Afghan negotiations. The deadline for the release was March 10. President Ghani has agreed to release 1,500 prisoners, gradually, ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations.