Afghanistan peace deal: Taliban walk out of 'fruitless' talks
April. 07, 2020
The Taliban have walked out of landmark talks which were supposed to help pave the path to peace in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the militant group said the first face-to-face discussions with the government had proved "fruitless".
Talks have broken down over a prisoner swap agreed between the US and Taliban.
It was meant to be a step towards ending the war, but the Taliban say Afghan officials are trying to delay the release, while officials say the militants' demands are unreasonable.
According to Matin Bek, a member of the government's negotiating team, the Taliban wanted the release of 15 commanders believed to be involved in what were referred to as big attacks.
"We cannot release the killers of our people," he said.
But the Taliban spokesman accused President Ashraf Ghani's administration of delaying the prisoner release "under one pretext or another".
The government says it's willing to release up to 400 low-threat Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in return for a considerable reduction in violence.
The prisoner swap - which formed part of the US-Taliban deal signed in February that did not involve the government - was supposed to be a gesture of trust between the two sides.
However, Mr Ghani refused to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners under the terms of the US deal, saying the Afghan government had made no such agreement. Instead, he offered the conditional release of 1,500 prisoners.
Arguments over the swap - which would also have seen 1,000 pro-government forces released by the Taliban - delayed the start of the talks, due to begin on 10 March, until 1 April.
What was the US-Taliban deal?
The agreement signed by the US and the Taliban aims to bring peace to Afghanistan, ending 18 years of war since US-led forces ousted the Islamist group from power.
The Afghan war: The short and long story What could peace look like? Who are the Taliban? The Afghan women determined not to lose out
Under the agreement, US President Donald Trump announced 5,000 US troops would leave the country by May and he would meet leaders of the Taliban in the near future.
US and Nato troops will withdraw from the country within 14 months, as long as the Taliban uphold their side of the deal.
The US also agreed to lift sanctions against the Taliban and work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group.
In return, the Taliban said they would not allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.
But US officials also agreed to the prisoner swap as a first step in talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban - who are still technically at war. The Afghan government was not included in the talks.