Afghan gov’t blames Taliban for delay in prisoner swap

Top Afghan official says Taliban’s insistence on release of 15 top commanders delay process
Riyaz Khaliq, Shadi Khan Saif  –  April 06, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan (Anadolu) – The insistence of the Taliban on release of their 15 top commanders who are charged with terror attacks has delayed the prisoner swap in Afghanistan, a senior Afghan official said on Monday.

Abdul Mateen Baig, President Ashraf Ghani’s close aide and head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, told a public gathering in Balkh province that the Taliban “are not responding positively” to the calls for peace by the government.

“We are ready to free some 400 prisoners right away, but they [Taliban] are insisting on release of their 15 commanders, who have blood of innocent people on their hands,” Baig said.

The announcement came as the prison swap remains in limbo with the insurgents threatening to scale up attacks.

In a statement, the Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused the Afghan government on Sunday of delaying the release of 5,000 prisoners which was promised under the agreement between the U.S. and Taliban.

“If such breaches continue, it would create an atmosphere of mistrust that will not only damage the agreement but also force the mujahideen to respond similarly and will increase the level of fighting,” he warned.

Spokesman for the National Security Council, Javid Faisal, told Anadolu Agency on Monday that it is the Taliban violating the peace accord. “There is no reduction in violence from the Taliban side”, he said.

In response to the Taliban’s allegations, Col. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, said that the American forces have upheld, and continues to uphold, the military terms of the agreement with the Taliban.

“… any assertion otherwise is baseless. USFOR-A has been clear- we will defend our ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) partners if attacked, in compliance with the agreement”, Leggett said on Twitter.

“The TB (Taliban) must reduce violence. A reduction in violence is the will of the Afghan people & necessary to allow the political process to work toward a settlement suitable for all Afghans. We once again call on all parties to focus their efforts on the global pandemic of COVID-19,” he added.

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