KABUL (AFP) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani began a process Sunday to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture after the insurgents proposed a surprise ceasefire during the Eid holiday.
Ghani also said the government was ready to hold peace talks with the Taliban after accepting their offer of a three-day truce over the Eid al-Fitr holiday starting Sunday that marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The decision to release the prisoners was a “good will gesture” and was taken “to ensure success of the peace process”, Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.
Ghani said earlier Sunday he would expedite the process of freeing Taliban inmates.
A US-Taliban deal signed in February stipulated that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the insurgents would free about 1,000 Afghan security force personnel.
The prisoner swap is seen as a confidence-building move ahead of long-awaited peace talks between the government and Taliban.
Before Sunday’s announcement, Kabul has already released about 1,000 Taliban inmates while the insurgents have freed about 300 Afghan security force personnel.
Ghani also said a government delegation was “ready to immediately start the peace talks” with the insurgents.
Government negotiators would be headed by Ghani’s former bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah after the two signed a power-sharing deal last week that ended a months-long political crisis.