The Afghan government has vowed to move forward with the release of dozens of Taliban militants it is holding behind bars, even though a swap between the two sides appears to have collapsed.
Kabul "will release 100 Taliban prisoners today based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence,” Javid Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council (NSC), said in a tweet on April 9, a day after the same number of militants with similar profiles was freed from detention.
Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban finds the release of prisoners on a daily basis “unacceptable."
Earlier this week, the Taliban recalled a three-member team it had sent to Kabul to try to finalize a prisoner swap originally set to happen by March 10.
The militants blamed the administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for delaying the exchange "under one pretext or another,” while Kabul called on the Taliban not to “sabotage the process by making excuses."
Asked why the government was releasing Taliban inmates, Faisal said: "We need to push the peace process forward."
A pact signed by the United States and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, on February 29 calls for the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters as a confidence-building measure ahead of formal peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict.
The Taliban has vowed to release some 1,000 Afghan government troops and civilian workers it is holding.
In return for the start of talks and a series of security commitments from the Taliban, all U.S. troops and other foreign coalition forces are meant to withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and tolonews.com