Afghan Peace Deal Hits First Snag Over Prisoner Releases

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s president mentioned Sunday that he won’t free 1000’s of Taliban prisoners forward of all-Afghan power-sharing talks set for subsequent week, publicly disagreeing with a timetable for a speedy prisoner launch laid out only a day earlier in a U.S.-Taliban peace settlement.

President Ashraf Ghani’s feedback pointed to the primary hitch in implementing the delicate deal, which is geared toward ending America’s longest battle after greater than 18 years and getting rival Afghan factions to agree on their nation’s future.

Nonetheless, the U.S. has mentioned a deliberate U.S. troop withdrawal over the subsequent 14 months is linked to the Taliban’s counter-terrorism efficiency, to not progress in intra-Afghan talks.

Washington’s Peace Envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as America’s first ambassador to Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S. invasion, spent the previous 17 months operating on-again, off-again talks with the Taliban to hammer out the settlement.

The U.S.-Taliban deal signed Saturday within the Center Jap State of Qatar envisions the discharge of as much as 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the Afghan authorities forward of talks between Afghan factions meant to start March 10 within the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The Taliban would launch as much as 1,000 prisoners.

Ghani informed a information convention within the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday that this wasn’t a promise america may make. He mentioned the discharge of any prisoners was a choice for his authorities to take and that he wasn’t able to launch prisoners earlier than the beginning of negotiations.

“The request has been made by america for the discharge of prisoners and it may be a part of the negotiations but it surely can’t be a precondition,” Ghani mentioned.

The U.S.-Taliban deal is seen as a historic alternative to extricate america from Afghanistan, a nation convulsed by battle because the Soviet invasion in December 1979. But it may additionally unravel rapidly, significantly if the Taliban fail to ship on a promise that no terror assaults can be launched from Afghan soil.

The intra-Afghan talks between squabbling political factions and rival Taliban in Afghanistan are much more intricate — even when a possible failure won’t gradual the withdrawal of American forces.

In an interview with The Related Press, Qatari Overseas Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani mentioned he thought of a prisoner change an necessary confidence-building measure.

“The whole lot is interconnected,” he mentioned Sunday in regards to the settlement’s 14-month timeframe.

“The prisoner change will likely be one of many first confidence-building measures, so it is going to stay a really vital step that we have to push ahead,” he added.

U.S. officers, travelling with Secretary of State Pompeo on his return to America, famous that the settlement stipulates “as much as” 5,000 prisoners can be launched, with out referring particularly to Ghani’s statements.

President Donald Trump informed reporters Saturday on the White Home that he will likely be “assembly personally with Taliban leaders within the not-too-distant future,” and described the group as “bored with battle.”

He didn’t say the place or why he plans to fulfill with Taliban leaders. He mentioned he thinks they’re severe in regards to the deal they signed however warned that if it fails, the U.S. may restart fight.

“We expect we’ll achieve success in the long run,” he mentioned, referring to all-Afghan peace talks and a remaining U.S. exit.

However he additionally warned: “If unhealthy issues occur, we’ll return” in with navy firepower.

Many Afghans, nevertheless, have welcomed the potential of peace.

Afghans in japanese Nangarhar posted photos of dozens of males dancing on the street to have fun the signing. In japanese Khost province, a Taliban stronghold, the night time sky was alight with pink tracer bullets fired by celebrating residents. Footballers in southern Helmand Province, additionally a Taliban stronghold that has seen heavy violence, started a three-day soccer match to have fun the signing.

Related Press writers Matthew Lee in Doha, Qatar and Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

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