Taliban prisoner release request sparks angry response

Responding to US Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson’s comment about the Taliban wanting the release of an additional 7,000 prisoners, Afghanistan’s National Security Council (NSC) said on Tuesday that such a move, before a peace agreement and a permanent ceasefire, will not help the peace process.

Rahmatullah Andar, spokesman for the NSC, said that government had been severely criticized for having released 5,000 Taliban prisoners about three months ago – a move that had been heavily influenced by the US.

“Releasing or not releasing Taliban prisoners will not affect the peace process. Government released 5,000 Taliban prisoners in order to bring a reduction in violence, but the move sparked criticism,” said Andar.

On Sunday, the US’s envoy to Afghanistan, Wilson, told reporters that the Taliban – under the US-Taliban agreement – want their 7,000 prisoners to be released by mid-December.

“Under the terms of the US-Taliban agreement, the Taliban expect there would be progress on releasing 7,000 prisoners by roughly mid-December,” he said.

According to Wilson, all of the provisions of the US-Taliban agreement are interlocked with one another.

Meanwhile, Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, Speaker of the Meshrano Jirga (Upper House of Parliament) said since the release of the 5,000 prisoners, there has been a marked increase in violence – instead of a decrease.

“Unfortunately after the release of the Taliban prisoners violence increased. People have been threatened and have made sacrifices,” said Muslimyar.

An administrative delegation of the Meshrano Jirga meanwhile urged government not to release any more Taliban prisoners until a peace agreement and lasting ceasefire is in place.

“The experience of releasing Taliban prisoners should not be repeated. Taliban [prisoners] should not be released until a peace deal has been signed,” said Mohammad Alam Ezadyar, deputy speaker.

“We do not want our president deceived by the US. No prisoners should be released until a real ceasefire [is in place],” said Faisal Sama, a secretary of the house.

The members of the Meshrano Jirga also warned that compromises being made by the US and Taliban will not be accepted by Afghans, especially compromises that lead to the increase in violence.