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26 May, 2020 15:03

900 Taliban prisoners to be freed by Afghan govt under Eid truce in biggest ever single-step release

900 Taliban prisoners to be freed by Afghan govt under Eid truce in biggest ever single-step release

Kabul plans to set free as many as 900 Taliban prisoners in the biggest-ever release of its kind to date. The two sides are moving closer to launching intra-Afghan peace talks, scheduled as part of the US-brokered peace process.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has started the process of releasing up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, according to his spokesperson. The move comes after the government accepted the armed group’s announcement of a three-day ceasefire during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

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In response to the largely upheld ceasefire, on Sunday, the President’s spokesperson delivered a promise to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners.

On Monday, the “gesture” began with the release of 100 Taliban prisoners, in an attempt to appease its leaders ahead of the diplomatic talks established by the Doha agreement.

The US-Taliban agreement, signed in Qatar’s capital, Doha, stipulates that the Afghan government is to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, in exchange for which the Taliban would free about 1,000 Afghan military service members.

The initial ceasefire offer posed by the Taliban came directly after its leader Haibatullah Akhunzada pleaded with the United States “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the agreement, which has also set the stage for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

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The ongoing ceasefire is only the second of its kind in the 19-year history of the conflict. It sparked new hopes of a prolonged truce, that could eventually lead to some form of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The only other precedent of total de-escalation coincided with Eid in 2018. Then, a short truce was offered by President Ghani. It was a resonant moment in the war: fighters from both sides embraced and took pictures.

The US invaded Afghanistan back in 2001, accusing the then-Taliban government of harboring Al-Qaeda extremists following the 9/11 attacks. However, following two decades of war that have claimed the lives of more than 2,300 American soldiers, Washington has still failed to defeat the Taliban militants, who have since regained control over almost half of the Afghan territory.

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