Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced the release of up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners after the Islamist group proposed a ceasefire.
The announcement came shortly after the Taliban agreed to a three-day surprise truce with Mr. Ghani’s government for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
The president said their release was a “gesture of goodwill” designed “to ensure the success of the peace process”.
Ghani also said his government was ready to hold further peace talks.
“President Ghani today launched a process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners … in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire,” a presidential spokesperson wrote on Twitter.
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The issue of Taliban prisoners has proved controversial during peace talks between Ghani’s government and the extremist Islamist group.
Last month, historic face-to-face talks failed over a prisoner swap – part of a US-Taliban agreement signed in February without government involvement.
Discussions on the exchange – involving thousands of Taliban fighters and 1,000 pro-government forces – have delayed the start of new peace talks.
But the latest announcement is expected to raise hopes among Afghans and international observers for a longer-term reduction in violence as well as possible progress in future negotiations.
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On Saturday, the Taliban announced a three-day truce to begin on Sunday.
The two sides have so far respected the ceasefire, which followed an upsurge in Taliban attacks on government troops.
Afghans and international observers had hoped for a reduction in violence between the two sides following the signing of a troop withdrawal agreement between the Taliban and the United States in February.
It was designed to bring peace to Afghanistan, ending 18 years of war since US-led forces ousted the Islamist group from power.
According to the agreement, US President Donald Trump has announced that 5,000 American soldiers will leave the country by May and that he will meet with Taliban leaders in the near future. US and NATO troops will withdraw from the country within 14 months, as long as the Taliban respects their share of the deal.
But US officials have also accepted the prisoner swap as the first step in talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban – who are still technically at war.