Prisoner swap halted as Taliban break off talks with Afghan government

By: Suraya Raiszada

KABUL: The Taliban have broken off talks with the Afghan government on a prisoner exchange, agreed in the US-Taliban deal aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted that the release of their prisoners was being “delayed under one pretext or another”. “Therefore, our technical team will not participate in fruitless meetings with relevant sides”, he said.

The US-Taliban peace deal aimed at ending the 18-year war required for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and for the armed group to release 1,000 pro-government prisoners in return.

Taliban and Afghan government representatives have been holding talks in Kabul since last week to try to finalize the prisoner swap, originally scheduled for March 10.

A member of the government’s negotiating team said the release had been delayed because the Taliban are demanding the release of 15 top commanders: “We cannot release the killers of our people. We don’t want them to go back to the battlefield and capture a whole province”, he said.

Last month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced a $1billion cut in American aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan leaders to end a feud that has contributed to jeopardizing the US-led peace effort.

On Sunday, the Taliban said the peace agreement with the US was nearing a breaking point.

Meanwhile Ministry of Defense says that Taliban continued to attack Afghan forces in recent weeks despite of the group’s promises regarding the major reduction in violence.

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