Ghani tells Taliban to cut ties with Pakistan for prisoners’ release
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has conditioned the release of Afghan Taliban prisoners with the group's severing ties with Pakistan.
At a public gathering in Nangarhar province on Tuesday, he also said that Taliban could not justify their insurgency after inking a peace deal with the US.
"If Taliban have set release of their prisoners as a condition for intra-Afghan talks, we also have conditions. They should tell me when they are going to leave [break relations with] Pakistan."
Earlier, Taliban announced resuming attacks on Afghan forces after implementing a one-week “Reduction in Violence” pact last week.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told a foreign news agency that the proposed intra-Afghan talks would only begin once their prisoners were freed.
This came after the Kabul government refused to release Taliban prisoners, as part of a peace agreement signed with the US in Doha, Qatar.
Taliban carried out more than a dozen attacks on Afghan army bases, officials said Tuesday, hours after the partial truce period ended.
The UN, the EU and the US urged Taliban to adhere to the peace agreement that was reached after years of negotiations between multiple stakeholders, particularly Pakistan.
“Following the Taliban’s reported resumption of military operations, the UN calls for continued reduced violence to maintain & enhance an environment conducive to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, which should lead to a permanent ceasefire and a lasting political settlement,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.
Islamabad also has urged Kabul and the Afghan Taliban to show restraint and flexibility and seize the rare opportunity of peace.
The landmark deal signed in Doha, Qatar on February 29 lays out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months.
As part of the deal, Taliban agreed to halt attacks in return for a prisoner swap and the US lifting sanctions against them.
But Ghani has objected to these arrangements that would see the Afghan government releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a condition for direct talks between the two sides.
In his public address on Tuesday he criticised Taliban for resuming attacks. “You [Taliban leaders] have made peace with the foreigners so what does your jihad mean now … killing of fellow Afghans is a crime.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement that the clause for the exchange of prisoners was part of the US-Taliban deal and Afghan president should "ask America for an explanation" if he has any problem with it.
Qureshi on Monday had also said that Islamabad was aware that some spoilers wanted to fail the peace deal but he expressed the hope that peace will win at the end of the day.