Taliban Rejects Afghan Government’s Prisoner Release Offer

Yesterday, the Afghan government announced the release of 100 Taliban prisoners in accordance with the phased releases required under an agreement signed on February 29 between the U.S. and Taliban officials.

However, the Taliban rejected the announcement, claiming they were unable to verify which prisoners had been released. The Taliban further stated they considered the prisoner exchange negotiations suspended. The unilateral move pauses the fulfillment of the Afghan government’s commitment to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and for the Taliban to release 1,000 pro-government captives.

In the wake of the Taliban’s decision, Afghan forces have faced violent attacks by Taliban forces. Rebels attacked security outposts in Karistan on April 2, and ambushed security forces in Sholgara on April 7.

The prisoner swap, which was originally supposed to occur by March 10, encountered issues as the Afghan government claimed the Taliban wanted 15 top commanders released and the Taliban accused Afghan authorities of wasting time and delaying the process. Afghan officials had offered to swap 400 low-threat prisoners instead of the 15 commanders requested by the Taliban in order to prevent high level personnel from reclaiming power in the region, but the Taliban rejected that offer.

As part of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, the U.S. government agreed to draw its forces down from 13,000 to 8,600 in the next three to four months, with the remaining U.S. forces withdrawing in 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to renounce al-Qaeda and prevent al-Qaeda and other groups from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorism against the United States. The Taliban also agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with other Afghan militants and the Afghan government. The U.S. troop drawdown is dependent on the Taliban maintaining its commitments. The agreement also called for permanent ceasefire and power-sharing talks that March between Afghan militant groups as well as between the Taliban and the Afghan government.