Afghanistan might have a future under a historic peace agreement between the US and the Taliban movement that could ends – if successful – years of conflict and confrontation in the longest US war out of its borders.
On April 12, Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban political bureau, confirmed the release of 20 prisoners, belonging to the Afghan government, saying that they would be handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kandahar.
In its turn, the Afghan government released 300 Taliban prisoners in a prisoners exchange since April 8, according to the agreement signed in February between the US and the Taliban, providing the best opportunity ever to end the 18-year-old US military presence in Afghanistan.
Exchanges between the Afghan government and the insurgents come after two spokespersons for the US forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban announced that the US commander had met with Taliban leader in Doha to discuss the need of reducing violence in the war-torn country, where continuing clashes threaten to disrupt the fragile peace process.
The meeting was held between the Taliban leaders and General Scott Miller, commander of US forces, as well as NATO-led non-combat Resolution Support mission in Afghanistan.
The exchange was preceded by the arrival of three Taliban members in the capital Kabul for starting the prisoner swap process, where they met with Afghan officials despite the quarantine imposed in the country to limit the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
“General Miller met with the Taliban leadership on April 11, as part of the military channel established in the agreement,” a spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan told Reuters, noting that the meeting discussed the need to reduce violence in the country.
A spokesperson for the Taliban political bureau in Doha tweeted that the movement discussed with the US commander the mechanism for implementing the peace agreement signed in Doha.
Washington finalized an agreement with the Taliban in late February, under which the Afghan government, not co-signatory of the agreement, will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, whereas the movement will release 1,000 prisoners from the government forces.
According to the agreement, Washington pledges to gradually withdraw its forces together with the international forces from Afghanistan by July next year, provided that Taliban start talks with Kabul, in addition to other pledges by Taliban.
In late March, according to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban announced its refusal to negotiate with the delegation that would represent the Afghan government, claiming that it does not represent all Afghan parties and factions.
Simultaneously, the spokesperson of the Afghan Ministry of Peace Affairs rejected Mujahid’s statements, stressing that the government team was formed after extensive consultation with different sectors of Afghan society.