Khalilzad: Time to Release Prisoners Has Arrived

  • Although the Afghan government and the Taliban have pledged to do so, no prisoners have been released so far.
  • Zalmai Khalilzad says the Afghan government and the Taliban can take technical steps to release the prisoners.
  • The Taliban insist that their agreement with the United States should release 5,000 of their prisoners first, and then they will have inter-Afghan talks

Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy to the US State Department for Afghan Peace, said it was time for the Afghan government and the Taliban to begin releasing each other’s prisoners. Mr. Khalilzad wrote on his Twitter page Wednesday that the United States wants to release the prisoners as soon as possible, in accordance with their agreement with the Taliban.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an Afghan-American diplomat, who has served as the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department since September 2018.  He has been involved with US policymakers in the State Department and the Pentagon since the mid-1980s, and he was the highest-ranking Muslim in the George W. Bush administration.

He said that although the Afghan government and the Taliban have pledged to do so, no prisoners have been released so far.
He emphasized that the issue of release of prisoners has become more serious in the face of the Coronavirus problem in Afghanistan, and that time should not be wasted.

Khalilzad says the Afghan government and the Taliban can take technical steps to release the prisoners, adding that he himself will be present at both sides’ preliminary meetings. According to him, due to the coronavirus and travel restrictions, these first meetings may not be possible and will be held virtually.

Mr. Khalilzad said the Taliban had promised him that their released prisoners would not return to the battlefield and that if they did, the peace process would be disrupted. He has also called on the right parties not to make derogatory speeches in the media.

The release of prisoners is an important but controversial issue in the Afghan peace process. The Taliban insist that their agreement with the United States should release 5,000 of their prisoners first, and then they will have inter-Afghan talks.

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is an Afghan politician and current president of Afghanistan, elected on 21 September 2014. An anthropologist by education, he previously served as finance minister and the chancellor of Kabul University.

However, the Afghan government says they have the authority to release the prisoners, and they have no agreement with the US on whether to release the prisoners. Beyond the issue of release of prisoners, the Taliban said Wednesday that if the Coronavirus problem gets serious in Afghanistan, they are ready to reduce their attacks.

On Tuesday, Roland Kobia, the EU’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said he should be stopped in Afghanistan to prevent the Coronavirus. The Afghan government on Wednesday welcomed the EU’s remarks on the ceasefire. Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi earlier this month said President Ashraf Ghani had signed a decree on the release of the detainees, on the occasion of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The release of the Taliban prisoners is an important but controversial issue in the Afghan peace process.

The president’s spokesman said on his Twitter page that the decree had been signed with regard to the accepted basis for talks with the Taliban. Mr. Siddiqui added that according to the first article of this decree, the Taliban prisoners who are released will promise that they will not return to the battlefield. The article states that the released Taliban prisoners will be released after recording biometric information.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at his inauguration said he would issue a decree on the release of the Taliban prisoners. President Ghani also said that the release of the Taliban prisoners should reduce violence and guarantee that there would be no threat to security in return for their release.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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