- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed the release on Monday, after consulting with the Afghan Loya Jirga.
- The release of these individuals was a condition for the Taliban to take part in the Afghan-Afghan peace talks.
- At least 156 of the 400 Taliban prisoners were on death row.
The Afghan National Security Council announced on Thursday that the government had released 80 of 400 Taliban prisoners identified as dangerous members of the Islamist group. The council tweeted that all released Taliban prisoners had vowed to resume peace talks after their release, and not to fight again against the Afghan people.
“The government yesterday released 80 Taliban convicts out of the 400 that the Consultative Loya Jirga sanctioned for release to speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting, nationwide ceasefire,” said Javid Faisal, spokesman for the National Security Council.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed the release on Monday, after consulting with the Afghan Loya Jirga. Some 156 of the 400 Taliban prisoners are on death row. The list of sentences also includes the letter of the perpetrator of the attack on the German embassy in Kabul, which took place about three years ago.
Ghani warned on Thursday that: “the hardened criminals were likely to pose a danger both to us and to (America) and to the world.” He said in a video conference, “until this issue, there was a consensus on the desirability of peace but not on the cost of it.”
“We have now paid the major installment on cost and that means peace will have consequences,” he added, noting that the release of “hardened criminals” and drug dealers was “likely to pose a danger both to us and to (America) and to the world.”
The release of Taliban members has been the group’s main condition for participating in the Afghan peace talks. In recent months, some 5,000 Taliban prisoners have been released from Afghan government prisons, while the Taliban have released about 1,000 government prisoners, including the rest of the security forces.
The release of these prisoners became possible after the signing of a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban. The United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban on February 29 in Doha, Qatar, to facilitate the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan. They have also assured the Taliban that there will be no terrorist threat to Afghanistan.
The agreement should also pave the way for the inter-Afghan peace talks. The release of Taliban prisoners has been cited as a confidence-building measure and a precondition for inter-Afghan talks between Afghans.
The United States recently informed its NATO allies that it would reduce its troop numbers in Afghanistan, and reduce the number of US troops from 8,600 to 5,000 by the end of November 2020.
US President Donald Trump said in an interview with news site Axios last week that his goal is to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 4,000, from 5,000, by the time of the US presidential election on November 3. He intends to end the “endless war” in Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesman responded to Trump’s remarks by saying that the Taliban would be willing to participate in inter-Afghan talks “within a week” if the remaining prisoners were released by the Afghan government.