Afghanistan: the Taliban ready to negotiate as soon as the prisoners are released

Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, during inter-Afghan talks in Doha, July 7, 2019. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

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The Taliban said Monday August 10 that they were ready to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government "in the week following" the release of 400 Taliban prisoners. This liberation received the approval of the Loya Jirga, an Afghan representative assembly which brings together several thousand dignitaries, state officials and tribal leaders.


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Our position is clear, if the prisoners are released, then we will be ready to interafghanes discussions in the week following  ," said AFP spokesman of the Taliban Suhail Shaheen, adding that the first round of talks would held in Doha.

Suhail Shaheen added that the delegation would be led by Abbas Stanekzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator in the talks with Washington which preceded the agreement signed in February. The releases of prisoners were a key point of this historic agreement with a view to a withdrawal of American troops by mid-2021 in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to start inter-Afghan negotiations.

Nearly 5,000 Taliban prisoners already released by Kabul

The future of the prisoners represents a crucial stake in the opening of negotiations, the two camps having engaged in an exchange of prisoners which must precede these discussions. Kabul has already released nearly 5,000 Taliban prisoners, but Afghan authorities have so far refused to release the remaining 400 captives claimed by the insurgents.

Some are indeed involved in deadly attacks killing Afghans and foreigners, including several French. Their release is not unanimous in the country, and concerns remain about the future. But the fact that direct negotiations can begin is very good news, according to Romain Malejacq, professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands.

The Taliban have always had their hand in this conflict  "

We cannot commit to the outcome of this process, but the fact that the Taliban agree to discuss on an equal footing with a government with which they have always refused to negotiate, that is historic and that is very important.  "

For Romain Malejacq, the Taliban come out of this first stage strengthened. “  But at the same time,” emphasizes the professor, “ this only takes into account the current balance of power: it is the Taliban who have always had the hand in this conflict.  "

“  From now on , continues Roman Malejacq, the great fear is that we are giving too much to the Taliban in the negotiation process. This still remains to be demonstrated. It is not absolutely certain that this process will be completed and it is not certain that the Taliban will get everything they want in the process. What is important is that the process actually starts. So it's still a process that is going to be complicated, that will probably fail several times, but in any case it is a process that is now starting.  "

To read also: Afghanistan: 400 Taliban soon released, the start of peace talks?

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