KABUL: The Taliban are prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month straight after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the insurgents said Thursday, provided an ongoing prisoner swap has been completed, reports AFP.
The conditional offer marks the first occasion a talks timeline has been floated since warring parties blew past a March 10 deadline to begin negotiations.The development comes amid soaring violence that has threatened to derail US-backed efforts to bring Kabul and the Taliban to the negotiating table and seek an end to Afghanistan’s nearly 19-year-old war.
The Taliban are “likely ... ready to begin intra-Afghan negotiations immediately after Eid in case the process of the release of the prisoners is completed,” the insurgents’ political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
He added that the Taliban were ready to release the remaining Afghan security force prisoners in their custody, as long as Kabul freed all insurgent inmates “as per our list already delivered” to authorities.
The prisoner-exchange issue, agreed to under the auspices of a deal between the US and the Taliban, has proved a major sticking point ahead of peace talks.
The Afghan government — which was excluded from the US-Taliban deal — is supposed to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, while the insurgents have pledged to free 1,000 Afghan security forces in their custody.