The Afghan government has sent a technical team to Qatar to prepare for the upcoming peace negotiations that have been repeatedly postponed with the Taliban, coinciding with the release of about 200 Taliban prisoners to advance the negotiations.
"A small technical team" had been sent to Doha to prepare for the start of peace negotiations, said Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the Ministry of State for Peace, adding that the Kabul negotiating team would also leave for Doha "very soon."
Senior Afghan officials said today, Wednesday, that the government has released about 200 Taliban militants, and that the dispute over their fate has caused peace negotiations to falter.
This group was released from the main prison in the capital, Kabul, on Monday and Tuesday evening, according to these officials, and at the same time the Taliban released 6 members of the Special Forces they were holding.
Government sources stated that the process of releasing Taliban prisoners will continue today as well, and the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation confirmed that the release process is underway, and that "the prisoner exchange will be completed soon."
Kabul was reluctant to release the last 400 Taliban prisoners, whom President Ashraf Ghani described as "a danger to the world," and France and Australia refused to release them because they included militants linked to the killing of French and Australian civilians and forces in Afghanistan.
This group is the rest of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners who have been released from Afghan prisons, as part of an agreement signed by Washington with the movement in February that allows the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
Abdullah Abdullah - who heads the Reconciliation Council in Afghanistan - said Thursday, "I can say with relative confidence that the intra-Afghan negotiations will start next week."
He added that the negotiating team representing the government "is ready for negotiations with a strong determination to represent the strong and united voice of the Afghan people for a lasting peace."
On the other hand, the Taliban declared their readiness to start negotiations "within a week" of the completion of the prisoner exchange, and blamed Kabul for delaying the negotiations so far.
"Our prisoners have been released, and we see this as a positive step that paves the way for the start of talks between the Afghans," said Suhail Shaheen, the movement’s spokesman.