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Taliban willing to sign the agreement with U.S. — Spokesman

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The Taliban is willing to sign the “finalized agreement with the U.S.,” the militant organization’s deputy head of political office in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, said in an interview on Tuesday.

Stanekzai told BBC Pashtu that the militants will announce a ceasefire with U.S. troops in Afghanistan once the agreement is signed.

The Taliban and the U.S. were in the process to sign an agreement seeking to to put an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan when U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled peace talks last week citing the killing of a U.S. soldier and 13 others in a Taliban bombing earlier this month.

The militant group’s spokesman for its political office in Doha said that, meanwhile, a four-member Taliban delegation travelled to Iran and met high ranking officials including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday.

The spokesman said that the peace process and protection of the Iranian development projects in Afghanistan were discussed in the talks.

A three-member delegation of Taliban representatives, led by Stanekzai, last week travelled to Moscow to discuss the peace process with Russian officials.

Shaheen tweeted about the visit, saying Moscow backed the Taliban’s position in the talks and supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan based on the agreement.

Back in Afghanistan, Afghan forces and the Taliban have escalated operations in many parts of the country.

YEE

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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Taliban rejects UN report alleging continued ties to al-Qaeda

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The Taliban militant group on Tuesday rejected a UN report that alleged relations between the group and the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, calling them “baseless” and “bigoted.”

The Islamic Emirate strongly rejects the contents of this report,” the Taliban said in a statement, using the name the group used in Afghanistan when they were in power.

The UN reported that the Taliban has assured al-Qaeda their historical ties will remain, despite the militants’ commitment with the United States that it will break ties with all terrorist groups in return for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.

“The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honour their historical ties,” the report said.

The United States special envoy for Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, had on Monday said that the UN report covers the period until March 15, just two weeks after the United States-Taliban agreement was signed.

Khalilzad added that the United States was monitoring Taliban compliance with the agreement.

The militant group also reiterates that it is committed to the agreement signed with Washington.

“The Islamic Emirate, in accordance with the Doha agreement, will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against anyone else or maintain training camps or use our soil to fundraise against others.”

According to the UN report, al-Qaeda’s senior leadership remains in Afghanistan. It estimates that between 400 and 600 al-Qaeda fighters are currently in the country.

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

 

 

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Feature: Released Taliban prisoners look forward to peace in Afghanistan

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“I am very happy to see myself out of jail today and feel free in a peaceful environment,” said Shir Ahmad, a former Taliban fighter who was released from Bagram prison 50 km north of Kabul on Tuesday.

A resident of southern Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, a joyful Ahmad who had languished for seven and a half years in the infamous Bagram prison and was freed under a presidential order to accelerate the peace process, told Xinhua outside the jail, “There’s been enough war, it is time for peace and after returning home I will work for peace.”

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Sunday vowed to set free 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture to speed up the peace process with the Taliban outfit.

Afghanistan, like other Muslim countries, celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

President Ghani also called upon the Taliban group to reciprocate the release of prisoners and observe a permanent ceasefire in the country to facilitate the initiation of intra-Afghan dialogue to end the war in Afghanistan.

Taliban militants, who observed a ceasefire during the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, have yet to response to the government’s demand.

The exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan soldiers is part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal inked on Feb. 29 in Doha, Qatar, to facilitate the intra-Afghan dialogue and pave the way for the withdrawal of the U.S.-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.

The Afghan government had earlier freed 1,100 Taliban prisoners while the armed group has set free some 200 detainees. However, on Tuesday, the government set free 900 Taliban detainees, 580 of them from Bagram jail.

Really, I am very tired of war and my dream in my life is to see lasting peace in my country,” another former prisoner, Sardar Wali, told Xinhua.

Wali, who spent nine years of his life in jail, added, “Undoubtedly, 40 years of war in the country has been exhausting for everyone. We Afghans deserve to enjoy peace and live in peace and unity.”

Welcoming the release of the prisoners by the Afghan government, Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha wrote in a Twitter post, “Release of 2,000 prisoners by the other side is a good step. The stipulation in (the) Doha Agreement for release of 5,000 prisoners was to create atmosphere of confidence.”

“The release of 900 prisoners by the other side is good progress. The Islamic Emirate (the name of the ousted Taliban regime) will release a remarkable number of prisoners soon,” Shaheen said.

Afghans from all walks of life have appreciated the warring sides observing a ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holidays and no security incidents were reported during the three-day truce in the conflict-plagued country. People have called on both sides to extend the ceasefire.

The government would demonstrate more flexibility if the Taliban extends the truce, spokesman for the National Security Council, Javid Faisal, said.

“Today will be an unforgettable memory in my life as I am free and after returning home I will lead a peaceful life,” said another ex-prisoner, Hazrat Ali, from the troubled Helmand province.

His companion, Hafiz Nasrullah, while nodding his head, said, “Peace or war depends on both the decision of the leaders and whether their resolutions are followed.”

(XINHUA)

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7 police killed in W. Afghan attack as Taliban resumes fighting

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At least seven policemen were killed and three others wounded in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan’s western Farah province on Wednesday night, the first major attack after a brief ceasefire ended, the local Police confirmed on Thursday.

“The clashes erupted after militants stormed a security checkpoint in the village of Rigi on the outskirts of provincial capital Farah city.

“The militants also sustained casualties based on the bloodstains on the clash site,’’ provincial Police spokesman, Muhibullah Muhib, told Xinhua.

The injured police were presumably captured by the militants in the province that has been the scene of heavy clashes between security forces and Taliban militants for years.

The clash came one day after a three-day ceasefire between Taliban militants and government security forces was ended on Tuesday night.

The Taliban did not extend the ceasefire which was declared during the three-day Muslim’s Eid al-Fitri festival despite the national and international call for extension of the brief truce.

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Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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7 police killed in W. Afghan attack as Taliban resumes fighting

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At least seven policemen were killed and three others wounded in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan’s western Farah province Wednesday night, the first major attack after a brief ceasefire ended, local police confirmed Thursday.

“The clashes erupted after militants stormed a security checkpoint in the village of Rigi on the outskirts of provincial capital Farah city. The militants also sustained casualties based on the bloodstains on the clash site,” provincial police spokesman Muhibullah Muhib told Xinhua.

The injured police were presumably captured by the militants in the province that has been the scene of heavy clashes between security forces and Taliban militants for years.

The clash came one day after a three-day ceasefire between Taliban militants and government security forces was ended on Tuesday night.

The Taliban did not extend the ceasefire which was declared during the three-day Muslim’s Eid al-Fitr festival despite the national and international call for extension of the brief truce.

(XINHUA)

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Afghanistan begins freeing 900 Taliban prisoners, urges truce extension

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The Afghan government said it was in the process of freeing 900 Taliban members from prison on Tuesday, the biggest such release yet.

The Government then urged the insurgent group to extend a three-day ceasefire set to end at midnight.

The release was part of a prisoner swap under a deal struck by the Taliban and the U.S. in Qatar in February, as a precursor to peace talks between the militants and an inclusive Afghan delegation aiming to end a two-decade-old war.

“For better management of the prisoner issue, it is important to extend the ceasefire,’’ Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA), told a news conference.

The Taliban had announced a three-day ceasefire for the Eid-el-Fitri holiday that ends the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, a move that was welcomed by both the Afghan and the U.S. governments.

Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, in a statement on Twitter, welcomed the release of 900 prisoners as “good progress” and said the group would, in turn, free a “remarkable number” of prisoners soon.

However, he said nothing about extending the ceasefire, which was to expire at midnight (1930 GMT) on Tuesday.

Last month, the Taliban rejected a call by the Afghan government for a Ramadan ceasefire.

Fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces had intensified before the ceasefire and the government said it would resume an offensive against the militant group in the wake of its deadly attacks nationwide earlier this month.

“As per the guidelines of our leaders, and based on the agreement (the U.S.-Taliban peace deal), we will not return to the battlefield,’’ a Taliban member, Noor Rahman, told Reuters after being released from Pul-e-Charkhi prison, located on the outskirts of Kabul.

Another freed prisoner, Qari Ahmad Sayeed, said he was delighted to be free, adding, “I hope this will result in bringing peace to the country’’.

Faisal said all released Taliban members were being given new clothes, cash and transport home.

The process was expected to be completed by midnight – the same time the ceasefire ends.

Prisoner releases began in April, but have been slow and marred by wrangling between the Taliban and the government, which was to free 5,000 prisoners under the Doha pact, while the Taliban freed 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces.

Until Tuesday, the government had freed just 1,000 prisoners and the Taliban 105, the spokesman for NSA, Hamdullah Mohib, told Reuters before the news conference.

With Tuesday’s release of 900, about 3,100 Taliban members would need to be freed from government prisons to reach the agreed figure of 5,000, while about 895 government soldiers would need to be freed by the Taliban.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Afghan gov’t releases another 900 Taliban inmates: official

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A total of 900 Taliban inmates were freed from Afghan government’s prisons on Tuesday in the latest move to further advance the intra-Afghan peace talks, a spokesperson for the Office of the National Security Council confirmed.

“The government released 900 Taliban prisoners today to further advance peace efforts, including an extended ceasefire and the immediate start of intra-Afghan peace talks,” spokesman Javid Faisal tweeted.

The move came after Taliban militants announced a three-day ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr festival, starting from Sunday.

Taliban militants have reportedly agreed to extend the ceasefire for another four days or more.

On Monday, the second day of the festival, the government released 100 Taliban from Bagram prison in eastern Parwan province.

On March 11, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani issued a decree to release 5,000 Taliban inmates on parole and Taliban agreed to release 1,000 soldiers but the exchange of prisoners was repeatedly delayed.

As of May 10, some 1,000 Taliban fighters and 200 Afghan government soldiers had been freed by the two sides, but the exchange process had been suspended over some disputes.

The exchange of prisoners is part of a peace deal inked between the Taliban and the United States in Qatar in February. However, the Afghan government was not a signatory of the deal.

(XINHUA)

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Afghan gov’t releases 100 Taliban inmates in goodwill gesture: official

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The Afghan government freed 100 Taliban inmates from Bagram prison on Monday as a gesture of goodwill, spokesperson of Office of the National Security Council confirmed.

“The Government released 100 Taliban prisoners from Parwan (province) today as a gesture of goodwill to advance peace efforts, including an extended ceasefire and the immediate start of direct talks,” spokesman Javid Faisal tweeted.

The move came after Taliban militants announced a three-day ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr festival, starting from Sunday.

On March 11, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani issued a decree to release 5,000 Taliban inmates on parole and Taliban agreed to release 1,000 soldiers but the exchange of prisoners was repeatedly delayed.

As of May 10, some 1,000 Taliban fighters and 200 Afghan government soldiers were freed by the two sides but the process of exchange of the prisoners was suspended over dispute on swap of prisoners.

The exchange of prisoners is part of a peace deal inked between the Taliban and the United States in Qatar in February. However, the Afghan government was not a signatory of the deal.

To expedite the peace process, President Ghani on Sunday ordered the release of another 2,000 Taliban detainees.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Afghans’ ceasefire remains intact as President Ghani promises to release 2,000 more Taliban prisoners

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Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has welcomed the three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban outfit on Saturday and vowed to set free 2,000 more Taliban detainees to expedite the peace process.

The Taliban leadership on Saturday evening, the eve of Eid al-Fitr, declared a three-day ceasefire, ordering its fighters to stay inside their bases and refrain from fighting.

Afghanistan, like other Muslim countries celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Sunday to mark the end of Muslims’ fasting month Ramadan.

In his short address after offering Eid al-Fitr prayer on Sunday, President Ghani welcomed the Taliban announcement for a ceasefire as a goodwill gesture towards peace and promised to set free 2,000 more prisoners.

Both the Taliban and Afghan government have exchanged more than 1,200 prisoners including more than 1,000 Taliban and some 200 security personnel since inking the U.S.-Taliban peace deal on Feb. 29.

The Afghan president, who ordered his forces to resume offensives on the armed group following deadly attacks on maternity in Kabul and funeral ceremony in Nangarhar weeks ago, also instructed his forces to return to a defensive position to support the ceasefire in the country in his speech on Sunday.

Calling upon the Taliban to reciprocate the release of prisoners and observe permanent ceasefire in the country, Ghani said his negotiating team “is ready to initiate dialogue” with the armed group to end the war in Afghanistan.

Since the observance of the ceasefire in Afghanistan on Sunday, no security incident has been reported.

Zabihullah Mujahid who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit told media that the group’s fighters are in defensive posture during the three-day Eid holidays.

Some countries including the United States, Qatar, Pakistan and India have welcomed the three-day ceasefire observed by warring sides during Eid al-Fitr holidays in Afghanistan.

(XINHUA)

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UN chief welcomes ceasefire announcement by Taliban, Afghan gov’t

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United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday said he welcomed the announcement by the Taliban and the Afghan government of a ceasefire to enable the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday in peace.

In a statement, the secretary-general urged all parties concerned to seize this opportunity and embrace an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Only a peaceful settlement can bring an end to the suffering in Afghanistan, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, in the statement.

The UN has been committed to supporting the people and government of Afghanistan in this important endeavor, said the statement.

The Taliban have announced a three-day ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr, starting from Sunday. The Afghan government has reciprocated.

(XINHUA)

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