Some 100 Taliban prisoners were released from a military prison in Afghanistan Monday as part of the government’s response to a surprise ceasefire offered by the militants to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival.
“The government of Afghanistan has today released 100 Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
The government plans to free up to 2,000 Taliban inmates as a “goodwill gesture” in response to the Sunday’s ceasefire offer, boosting efforts to launch peace talks.
Violence has escalated since the Taliban signed a deal with Washington in February to withdraw all US forces from the country by early next year.
The agreement also set the stage for intra-Afghan peace talks and stipulated that the government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the militants would free about 1,000 national security.
Before Sunday’s announcement to free up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a “goodwill gesture,” Kabul had already released about 1,000 Taliban inmates while the insurgents had let go roughly 300 Afghan security forces members.
The Taliban insists that Kabul must release 5,000 of its members as agreed in the deal with the US.
“This process should be completed in order to remove hurdles in the way of commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” a Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 there has only been one other ceasefire -- a three-day pause between the Taliban and Kabul, also marking Eid, in 2018.
That ceasefire was initiated by Ghani.