By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: Even though calls for the Taliban to prolong a cease-fire with the Afghan government have gone unanswered so far, there have been no signs of renewed fighting and the militants say they will release more prisoners.
A Taliban-declared three-day lull in fighting, which ended on May 26, provided a rare break from the violence, prompting the government to call on the militants to extend the cease-fire so long-delayed peace talks could begin.
Amid the cease-fire, Afghan authorities released 900 Taliban prisoners — part of a pledge by the government to free up to 2,000 militants in response to the Taliban’s cease-fire move.
A senior member of the Taliban on May 27 told the AFP news agency that the militants were planning to free about 50 to 100 Afghan security force members as early as May 28.
The Afghan government has also called on the Taliban to extend the cease-fire.
“If the Taliban are ready to extend the cease-fire, we are ready to continue the cease-fire too,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on May 27, adding that the future of negotiations “depends on the Taliban’s next move.”
The prisoner exchange is part of a February 29 U.S.-Taliban agreement that did not include the Afghan government. Under the deal, Washington agreed to pull its troops out of the country in exchange for security guarantees.
On May 26, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had not set a target date for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, amid speculation he may make ending the United States’ longest war a campaign issue ahead of November’s presidential election.
“We’re there 19 years and, yeah, I think that’s enough…. We can always go back if we want to,” Trump told a White House news conference. “I have no target. But as soon as reasonable.”