As the negotiations between the US representative and the Taliban go ahead, the Afghan government has said that it released hundreds of Taliban-affiliated prisoners. Sources close to Kabul government have said that some 80 Taliban prisoners have so far been released in various provinces.
The release includes those who in Eid al-Fitr the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a speech vowed to set free. The promise followed a demand by the attendees of a peace meeting held a month ago in Kabul that included tribal leaders.
There have been reports that the government over the past three days freed about 130 prisoners. Seventy-six Taliban fighters were freed from Bagram prison in Parwan province, reports add.
This is not the first time the central government frees Taliban fighters from its prisons. Over the past two years, the government of Ghani released a number of militant fighters as a good faith move.
Taliban welcomes amid other parties’ concerns
In reaction to Ghani’s measure, the Taliban released a statement welcoming the move and calling it a good step ahead.
However, some other Afghan sides did not welcome the releases, saying that they will follow the news with concerns. Social media users were among the objectors, arguing that the move will weaken the morale of the national security forces and army in the fight against the militants on the battleground. They said that those who were behind the bars for serious crimes should not be let free as their freedom poses serious risks to national security.
Ghani’s move also drew objections among the candidates of the presidential election. Faramarz Tamana, the former head of foreign ministry’s Strategic Studies Office and the current presidential candidate, asserted that freeing the Taliban prisoners was an essential paradox in the president’s security policy.
“The release of the Taliban prisoners has no rational justification at the present time. It will only give the Taliban an upper hand in the fight against the country’s security forces.”
In fact, the main layer of objectors to Ghani’s move includes the president’s election rivals. They say that freeing the Taliban prisoners is a show gesture as the country moves close to the presidential election, scheduled for September 28, and will not do much to help the security improve in the war-ravaged nation. It will only promote Ghani’s position among the Pashtuns.
This opens the door to the argument that Ghani has an ethnic, not national, look at the Taliban, who like him are majorly Pashtun. With this in mind, the release of the Taliban prisoners will have a considerable positive influence on his place among the Pashtuns as the election comes close.
How Ghani’s move influences peace talks with the Taliban
If with the release of the prisoners the central government seeks to facilitate the peace talks, it seems to have stepped in the wrong direction.
Despite the fact that so far several peace talks rounds were held, the peace process has not made tangible advancement. The group at least six times negotiated peace with Zalmay Khalilzad, the special US representative for Afghanistan peace, but the security situation in Afghanistan remains unstable. The key obstacle to peace is not the detention of the Taliban prisoners.
The militant group has several times announced that peace can only be achieved if the foreign troops fully pull out of the country. So, any peace, the Taliban think, is unachievable unless the Western forces leave the country. Therefore, while the Taliban argue that the main hurdle ahead of peace is the foreign military presence, the release of the prisoners, though a positive move, will not considerably influence the peace negotiations.
Some analysts say that if the central government eyes fruitful dialogue with the Taliban towards peace, it should first make its idea clear about the foreign military presence so that it can guarantee its legitimacy for talks with the Taliban, blur the lines of ideals with the militant group, and pave the way for peace.