Afghan govt, Taliban resume prisoner swap talks

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to journalists after voting at Amani high school, near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Afghans headed to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president amid high security and Taliban threats to disrupt the elections, with the rebels warning citizens to stay home or risk being hurt.

The Afghan government and the Taliban on Thursday resumed prisoner swap talks after weeks of deadly violence and an impasse that delayed the beginning of peace negotiations for nearly two months.

Over the next few days, they will discuss technicalities on the release of the remaining 6,000 prisoners to be released by both sides.

“A five-member technical delegation was sent to Kabul for registration and verification of the prisoners (to be released). The team will help to solve the technical problems (in the prisoner swap),” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson at its political office in Qatar, told Efe news.

The Afghan National Security Council (NSC) that is responsible for the prisoner swap process also confirmed the resumption of the talks.

“A delegation of the Taliban has arrived in Kabul to work with the technical team of the government of Afghanistan on the prisoner release process,” Javid Faisal, an NSC spokesperson, told Efe news.

Faisal said it was “only a technical team to hold talks on the prisoner release process” and not mandated for parleys on other issues.

This is the second time in the past two months that the Taliban team visited Kabul for prisoner swap negotiations.

Their first delegation visited Kabul on March 31.

However, after nearly a week-long negotiations, the team withdrew from the process, blaming the US and the Afghan government for making excuses in the release of prisoners.

Even as the talks broke down, the two sides unilaterally released prisoners from their captivity at slower than expected pace and without coordinating with each other that was mandatory for peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

The government in the past nearly two months released only 2,000 of 5,000 Taliban prisoners as was committed under an agreement with the US.

Some 1,000 of them were released on Monday and Tuesday as part of the goodwill gesture from the government in response to the Taliban”s declaration of a three-day Eid ceasefire.

The Taliban also released a few hundreds of the 1,000 inmates under its captivity and promised to release more prisoners soon.

One of the main concerns of the Afghan government in the prisoner release process was the lack of guarantees that the released Taliban leader may back return to combat operations.

However, the Taliban seem to have assured that it won”t be the case.

Ammar Yasir, a Taliban official in the Qatar office, tweeted that according to new guidelines, all the released inmates were “instructed to live a peaceful life with their families, those who are sick to seek treatment and if someone”s education remained incomplete should begin to complete their education”.

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