No new reports of fighting despite Afghan ceasefire ending

Appeals for the Taliban to extend a ceasefire with Afghan forces went unanswered Wednesday, but there were no reports of major violence and the militants said they would release some government prisoners.

A three-day pause in fighting which ended on Tuesday provided a rare respite from the grinding violence, and Afghan authorities called on the Taliban to extend the ceasefire so delayed peace talks could begin.

The group has not yet responded, but by early Wednesday afternoon no major security incidents had been reported.

The historic pause in fighting — only the second in nearly 19 years of conflict — has seen Afghan authorities release about 1,000 Taliban inmates, most from Bagram jail near Kabul.

The release is part of a pledge by the government to free up to 2,000 insurgents in response to the Taliban’s ceasefire offer.

On Wednesday, a senior member of the Taliban told AFP that in return the insurgents were planning to free about 50 to 100 Afghan security force members as early as Thursday.

Top Afghan officials have also demanded that the ceasefire be extended.

“If the Taliban are ready to extend the ceasefire, we are ready to continue the ceasefire too,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on Tuesday.

The future of talks with the insurgents “depends on the Taliban’s next move”, he added.

The release of prisoners by both sides is part of a US-Taliban deal, which excluded the Afghan government, that saw Washington agree to pull out its troops from the country in exchange for security guarantees.

The deal stipulates the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.

Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates before the ceasefire, while the insurgents had released about 300 government captives.