Some Taliban prisoners released by the Afghan government have returned to the battlefield, said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, on Tuesday.
Talking to David Petraeus, former CIA director, in a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) webinar, Abdullah said the peace talks with the Taliban in Doha have been positive so far.
“After 42 years of war, the sort of talks in Doha, I consider it historic. It has started well. It continues now,” Abdullah said. “The atmosphere, considering the background, I should consider it is healthy. And we sense that there is a willingness in the other side, which is the Taliban movement, to take advantage of that situation and contribute.”
However, he cautioned that the journey will be quite long.
“Nobody can ignore all the complexities involved. Both sides come from two different worldviews – views about the life, about rights of citizens, about our vision of our own country, and all of that,” the chairman said.
“And at the same time, we have come together with all those differences to find a way to live in peace with one another and maintain our differences of views and let the people decide about it in the future, but at the same time put an end to the misery of the people which have continued for so long.”
He also said “some” – though not the majority – of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners released by the government as a condition for talks had resumed the fight against Kabul.
“I do know that some have returned to the battlefield, which is a violation of the agreement that they had made,” Abdullah said when asked to assess how many released Taliban fighters have returned to combat.
He added that the level of violence inside Afghanistan was “unfortunately” very high, while the negotiations continued, it was critical to see a reduction as a sign of “good faith” and to maintain the popular support for the peace process.
“I repeat my call to the Taliban themselves and also to all partners who have any leverage over the Taliban to press on that point [ceasefire],” he said.
Abdullah said he planned to visit Pakistan in the coming days for the first time since 2008 to help build ties so that “extremist terrorist elements” do not continue to take advantage of regional differences.
When asked about if he still believes that The Taliban are maintaining their ties with Al Qaeda, Abdullah said Afghan security and intelligence institutions believe that Al Qaeda is still active.
“So that part of the commitment, at least, to say the least, is not completely implemented,” he added referring to the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February.
A reporter also asked Abdullah what the expectations were for a post-peace government and system, to which he replied that it will be debated depending on the merits and public opinion.
He did say earlier in the interview that the gains made in the past 19 years were not “superficial” or “reversible” and he hoped that the Taliban would come around to seeing it as such.
“The point is that we might not be able to convince Taliban or persuade them to accept everything that we say. And at the same time, Taliban will not be able to convince us for their own ideas. The idea is to cease fighting, to not use violence. And at the same time, they should accept that things have changed in the past twenty years.”