KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday his government would release the last batch of Taliban prisoners, removing the final barrier in the path of direct talks with the rebels to end the war. prolonged war of the country.
His announcement came after a consultation meeting, where he was consulted by thousands of representatives from around the country.
The release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, which the United States agreed to in a February agreement with the rebels, also began the phased withdrawal of the US military, met with government opposition. Afghanistan, a country holding prisoners. After prolonged pressure from the Trump administration, Mr. Ghani released 4,600 prisoners from a list provided by the Taliban but called for the consultation of more than 400 people, whom he considers accused or convicted of crimes. major, including murder, is beyond his amnesty.
At the start of the consultation meeting, on Friday, more than 3,000 delegates crowded under a tent in the capital Kabul, despite concerns about the coronavirus. Ghani said his government was at a crossroads.
“The Taliban said that if 400 prisoners were released then direct negotiations between our negotiating team and the Taliban would begin in three days,” he said in his greetings to delegates. their advice. “Meanwhile, they threatened that if they weren’t released, not only would they continue the war and violence, but it would escalate.
On Sunday, after two days of deliberation between more than 50 committees, the council issued a statement calling for the prisoners to be released. The mood in the hall was often tense. A delegate, a member of the National Assembly, who carried a sign that read “Participating in bullying the Taliban is treason” was brutally pushed out of the hall and stopped by an employee when she against.
President Ghani said he would sign the decree on Sunday to release 400 prisoners.
“We were faced with a choice and our decision was made easier today,” he said.
In a statement to conference participants, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Taliban had pledged to initiate direct negotiations after the prisoners were released and had pledged to reduce their levels of violence. force in negotiations, in which a permanent ceasefire will be discussed.
“The United States intends to keep the Taliban in these commitments,” Pompeo said.
Many delegates said it seemed the Afghan government gave in to US pressure to release remaining prisoners. The meeting, which was convened for consultation and without executive power, they said, was a way for Mr. Ghani to share political responsibility. Representatives from several committees added that they were asked to make positive or negative recommendations about the release of 400 prisoners without giving details on what prisoners were charged or convicted of.
Over the past few months, officials have given various reasons as to why they cannot release the remaining prisoners. Some said the group consisted of foreign nationals convicted of murder and that the government had no authority to forgive the victim’s family on behalf of the victim’s family. Some inmates are drug dealers or members of organized crime gangs that are not affiliated with the Taliban, other officials said. However, those criminals were added to the list of prisoners for which the Taliban asked to be released.
A government document left several questions about the crimes committed by the named prisoners. It said 156 out of 400 prisoners were sentenced to death, 105 were convicted of murder, 34 kidnapped and 51 drug dealers. A few were convicted of rape. But they also say that 44 people have been “blacklisted” by the Afghan government and its partners. The crimes committed by the four prisoners were listed as “unspecified.”
Mohammad Ali Akhlaqi, a former member of the National Assembly, said that within the committees, delegates were clearly selected: that the only obstacle preventing direct talks with the Taliban was the release of prisoners. staff remaining. The Taliban have pledged to initiate negotiations immediately if the prisoners are released, or incite violence if they are not allowed.
“It is clear that everyone wants the bloodshed to be stopped,” Akhlaqi said. “The question is misleading. As the president himself said, he has no authority to release these 400 prisoners because they have committed a major crime and they have been convicted. ”
“When the president can’t release them, how can the Jirga release them?” He added, referring to the advisory board. “The Jirga is not on our Constitution.”
Ghani’s government has found itself in an inevitable position, with his officials feeling that the United States lent legitimacy to the Taliban with a rushed peace process that has deeply undermined. government identity Afghanistan. US diplomats, driven by President Trump’s urgency to leave Afghanistan, have called for an agreement to avoid threats from Mr Trump’s retreat. They agreed to withdraw the remaining US troops from Afghanistan within 14 months and release 5,000 prisoners in negotiations that eliminated the Afghan government.
The agreement in February calls for the release of Taliban prisoners within 10 days. Mr. Ghani used his control over the fate of inmates as a way to show the Taliban that his government would not be pushed back. But the delay in reaching the negotiating table has raised concerns that the Americans will complete the withdrawal before the two Afghan rivals come to an agreement on a future system of governance and power sharing. hybrid.
On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said US troops in Afghanistan would drop below 5,000 by the end of November, down from slightly more than 12,000 at the time of signing in February.
The Afghan government’s gathering of more than 3,000 people under one tent has been criticized by health experts who fear violations of coronavirus restrictions will spur the spread of the pandemic.
The Ministry of Health said that right before the meeting took place, at least 17 representatives had positive results and were taken to the hospital. Khushal Nabizada, Kabul’s director of public health, said the delegates’ test results had preceded the first meeting and the delegates were quarantined from the convention.
Although Afghan officials said all delegates were tested before being allowed to participate, many said they had never been examined. Some of the 17 test-positive people may also have confused with other participants during the procedure.
“There are 70 people on our committee,” said Masuma Bahar, a delegate. “I asked the two women beside me and both said they had not been checked.”