At long last, the Afghan government and the Taliban are ready to start their long-delayed peace talks.
The Afghan Loya Jirga (grand assembly) approved the release of 400 Taliban prisoners on Sunday, and President Ashraf Ghani endorsed the decision. This hopefully paves the way for the intra-Afghan talks between Afghan delegates and the Taliban insurgency, aimed at ending the 19 years of war.
“I look forward to the intra-Afghan dialogues,” said Khalid Noor, the youngest member of the Afghan negotiating team. He added, “I believe it’s going to start in the next few days.”
On Monday, the Taliban and the Afghan government agreed on August 16 as the start date for the intra-Afghan dialogues. The 21 members of the Afghan negotiation team headed by Massoum Stanikzai (former chief of the National Directorate of Security) is likely to depart Afghanistan for Doha, Qatar once the prisoners are released — as early as tomorrow.
The 400 prisoners were the last of a group of 5,000 whose release was promised in the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, signed on February 29. The Afghan government was hesitant to release these last prisoners for various reasons, from a lack of presidential constitutional authority to a desire to hold the prisoners responsible for their actions as well as a need for leverage for the Afghan government after the U.S.-Taliban deal.
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