Three high-ranking official sources said that the United States has proposed transferring 200 Taliban prisoners to a house arrest facility after their release from Afghan prisons, in a proposal to break the deadlock that is holding up peace talks.
The sources said that senior US diplomats this week presented the Taliban and the Afghan government with a proposal to place the movement's fighters accused of carrying out some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan in a facility under the supervision of the two parties.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said - on Friday - that he does not have the powers to release the last batch of Taliban fighters, estimated at 400 detainees, stressing that the decision to release them requires the approval of the expanded Reconciliation Council (Loya Jirga).
"To demonstrate goodwill and accelerate peace talks, we will release 500 Taliban prisoners in response to the 3-day ceasefire declaration that was issued by the movement," Ghani said in a speech on the occasion of the holiday, explaining that the release of these constitutes a continuation of the government's pledge to release 5,000 of Taliban fighters under an agreement signed by the movement with Washington.
Diplomats are seeking to launch peace talks in Doha, after being postponed due to the prisoners' issue, and the Afghan government is resisting the release of the last batch of prisoners the movement demands their release as a condition for starting peace talks.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy, pressed the movement’s leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to break the deadlock during a visit to Kabul this week.
"The Americans and their allies agree that it is unreasonable to allow some of the most dangerous Taliban fighters out freely," said a Western diplomat.
The Afghan government has charged about 200 of the remaining 400 prisoners with plotting attacks on embassies, public squares and government offices in recent years, which have killed thousands of civilians.
Today, Friday, a 3-day cease-fire began between the Afghan government and the Taliban on the occasion of the blessed Eid Al-Adha, amid hopes that negotiations - to be held after the Eid holiday in the Qatari capital, Doha - will lead to peace between the two parties.
These negotiations were scheduled to start on March 10, but this date has been exceeded due to the slow process of prisoner exchange that the Taliban requires to complete before then.
On February 29, Doha witnessed an agreement between the United States and the Taliban that would pave the way - according to a timetable - for a gradual US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a prisoner exchange.
Washington is concerned with breaking the deadlock in order to score concrete results before the US presidential elections in November, during which President Donald Trump will strive to show off his success in ending the 19-year-old Afghan war.