The Taliban preferred to break off the ‘fruitless’ talks with the Afghan government on a prisoner exchange, Reuters reported. Despite all the efforts made by Washington to speed up the peace process, the political rivals weren’t able to find a compromise on prisoners issue.
The late February pact between the United States and the Taliban planned to become a bright perspective for both Taliban and Ashraf Ghani’s government. Under the peace deal, the U.S.-led international forces will gradually withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, is the best chance yet of ending the almost two-decade-long war.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban delegation, wrote on Twitter a technical team would not participate in “fruitless meetings” and the release of their prisoners was being “delayed under one pretext or another”.
But peace hinges on talks between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the militants. A prisoner exchange is meant to build confidence on both sides for those talks.
Meanwhile, the Afghani government noted it would maintain its work on the prisoner release plan. “We ask the Taliban to not sabotage the process by making excuses now,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Kabul.
The Taliban suspension of the talks undermined peace process
The Taliban suspension of the talks could lead to an escalation of violence, which in turn could threaten the plan to withdraw U.S. troops, a major objective of President Donald Trump.
A three-member Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul last month from Qatar to begin the prisoner exchange process. Last week, Afghan officials said they would release 100 Taliban prisoners who were sick or over the age of 50.
In exchange, the Taliban were expected to free 20 members of the Afghan security forces. Ultimately both sides would aim to release the 6,000 prisoners they are holding.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the arrival in Kabul of the Taliban team as good news. Despite the pandemic, Pompeo’s March trips to Kabul and Doha aimed at boosting the prisoner process forward.
Commenting on the Taliban’s decision to break off the talks, Afghan government officials have said the militants were demanding the release of senior commanders involved in some of the most violent attacks in recent years.