Afghan President Ghani Rejects Taliban Prisoner Release
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that he would not agree to the release of Taliban prisoners stipulated as a condition for talks with the Afghan government in a deal signed Saturday between the United States and the Taliban. “The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners,” Ghani told reporters in Kabul on Sunday morning, a day after the deal was signed in Qatar. “It is not in the authority of United States to decide, they are only a facilitator,” Ghani continued. The US-Taliban agreement says that both sides are committed to work for the release of combat and political prisoners as a confidence-building measure. By March 10, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners were to be released in exchange for up to 1,000 captive Afghan government fighters. The agreement was signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, witnessed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The agreement commits the US to reduce its troops from 13,000 to 8,600, and to work with allies to reduce their forces as well, within 135 days of signing, if the Taliban adhere to security guarantees and a ceasefire. US and coalition forces would withdraw from the country completely within 14 months of the deal’s signing.