Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday that a partial seven-day truce would continue, but he rejected a key element of a new US-Taliban deal that calls for the release of thousands of insurgent prisoners.
The so-called “reduction of violence” period, which saw attacks plunge across Afghanistan, lasted the week before a historic agreement between the United States and the Taliban was signed in Doha on Saturday.
The agreement sets a withdrawal period of 14 months for all foreign forces, provided that the Taliban honor several promises and enter into talks with Kabul for a more comprehensive peace agreement.
“The reduction in violence will continue with the aim of achieving a complete ceasefire,” Ghanitold said at a press conference.
“General (Scott) Miller has told the Taliban to do it. It should (continue),” he added, referring to the US commander in charge of foreign forces in Afghanistan.
A Talibansource did not immediately comment.
The partial truce saw scenes of cheering Afghans dancing on the street as hopes grew that the 18-year war in Afghanistan could finally end.
But as a bumpy road sign, Ghani rejected a clause in the agreement that calls on the Taliban to release up to 1,000 prisoners and the Afghan government to release around 5,000 insurgent prisoners.
Ghani’s government was not part of the Doha deal, so even if the deal says “the United States is committed to achieving this goal” of freeing Taliban prisoners, it is unclear how this can happen. produce if Kabul is not on board.
Any release of prisoners is “not under the authority of the United States, it is under the authority of the Afghan government,” said Ghani.
“It could be on the agenda for intra-Afghan talks, but cannot be a precondition for the talks.”
The Taliban have so far refused to negotiate with the Ghani administration – which they considered an American puppet regime – but the withdrawal agreement depends on Kabul and the insurgents who reach a separate peace agreement by through “intra-Afghan” negotiations.
Ghani, who is mired in a political crisis following allegations of fraud over his re-election, was referring to the upcoming talks which are due to start on March 10, it seems, in Oslo.
Ghani’s interrogation of the prisoner’s release indicates difficult negotiations ahead in a country still torn apart by tribal and ethnic rivalries, and where leaders and warlords seem unable to find common ground on important issues.
Washington has clearly not congratulated Ghani on his electoral victory, announced last week after months of delays, while his main rival Abdullah Abdullah has pledged to set up a parallel administration.
Despite lingering uncertainty about the significance of the agreement for Afghanistan, residents of Kabul said they were relieved to walk the streets without fear of attacks from the Taliban.
“I feel much more peaceful today after the agreement, more relaxed,” said a police officer on condition of anonymity.