The Office of the National Security Council (NSC) said on Saturday, that the Taliban has to release the 22 Afghan commandos who were in their custody before the government took any further steps to release the 320 militants in their custody.
Javid Fasal, spokesperson for the NSC tweeted, that the Taliban had to take action first for the intra-Afghan peace process to start.
“There are no changes to the plan. The Taliban will have to release our commandos held by them before the government resumes the release of the remaining 320 Taliban prisoners,” he said.
Fasal said, “It’s now on the Taliban to take action and help the peace efforts produce the expected outcome.”
The Presidential Palace had also reiterated that the Taliban had to release the detained security forces members.
Sediq Sediqqi, the presidential spokesperson had also told the media last week that the prisoner exchange cannot be one-sided and the Taliban should release the government prisoners.
“We have taken great steps and we are ready to take other steps, but now the responsibility is with the Taliban, and the group must stand by its commitments,” the spokesperson had said.
However, acting Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar was optimistic about the prospects for peace talks in early September.
“It seems that most of the hurdles have been either removed or we are in the process of building consensus on a solution,” he said during a virtual discussion organised by the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday.
“We are much closer to the start of the peace negotiations than we have ever been before,” he said, adding, “We are optimistic that next week, we will be making big progress in this respect.”
He expressed cautious optimism about the removal of all hurdles and said the government was working to reach a consensus on the release of all prisoners.
In the past few days, President Ashraf Ghani spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron while National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib spoke with Australian ambassador Geoff Tooth about the prisoner release.
Both nations had previously raised objections to the release of the Taliban prisoners who had killed their nationals.
During the respective phone calls, France and Australia said they were committed to the peace process and assured the Afghan government of their support.