Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, May 29th, 2020

Taliban Prisoner Releases amidst Upsurge in Political Upheaval

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Taliban Prisoner Releases amidst  Upsurge in Political Upheaval

Despite the fact that President Ashraf Ghani reiterated his disapproval of releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners, stated in the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in Qatar, he ordered the phased release of the prisoners on Tuesday night, caved in on earlier refusal. Based on his order, in the first phase, 1,500 Taliban prisoners will be released within four days and then 100 prisoners will be released on daily basis. The presidential decree says that each prisoner should ensure via a written commitment not to return to the battlefield and their identity will be recorded through biometric machines.
The prisoner releases will create the conditions conductive to intra-Afghan dialogue. It also shows the good intention of the Afghan government, as it has claimed so, and its seriousness to hold face-to-face talks with the Taliban.
What will be the actual effect of the prisoner releases on Afghanistan’s evolutions and peace process? To view it from an optimistic prism, the Taliban are likely to be inspired for the talks, since the release was also part of the US-Taliban agreement. What guarantees exist to ensure the peace process will move forward as predicted? The Taliban and the Kabul government will come close to peace and a sense of trust will emerge between the two sides in the wake of the prisoner releases. The phased releases are not prolonged enough to have an adverse effect on peace.
On the other hand, the 5,000 released prisoners are also likely to return to the battlefield and join the Taliban group, as President Ghani and other Afghan officials have aired their concerns in this regard on multiple occasions. Ghani expressed his doubt and disapproval concerning this issue within the last few weeks. The Taliban’s practices in the past consolidate the pessimistic feelings. In the past, the Taliban prisoners, released by the Afghan government, returned to the battlefield and resumed their fighting against the government. The released prisoners appear to be divided into two groups: The first group may be subdued by their leaders following their orders. The second group may join other terrorist networks or the Taliban’s splinter outfit. In such a case, the released prisoners will pose a great danger to the country’s security. The Taliban have constantly sought military supremacy, which will carry weight in the peace talks and used as a bargaining chip. With the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, which were involved in supporting, training, and advising Afghan security forces, the doubt and mistrust in appropriateness of the prisoner releases is compounded.
Meanwhile, if one considers Afghanistan’s ongoing situation as well as the crisis of presidential elections, the prisoner releases will be a great risk to the Afghan government. That is to say, the Afghan government has yet to transition from the crisis emerged in light of presidential election. On the day of President Ghani’s inauguration ceremony, his political rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was also sworn in declaring a parallel government. Such an issue will compound the fragility of the Afghan government, which, on the one hand, struggles to pave the ground for intra-Afghan dialogue, and, on the other hand, resolve the crisis emerged as a result of the presidential election. The initial principle to be followed in the peace talks is that both the Taliban and the Afghan government have to come to the table with full preparation. This preparation will emerge only if political factions and figures support the stance of the Afghan government. However, deep cleavage is ongoing between politicians and political groups and figures, which may be the main reason delaying the announcement of the Afghan negotiating team to talk to the Taliban leadership.
If the Afghan government be unable to manage the ongoing domestic political differences and the crisis of the presidential election in the short run, the prisoner releases are likely to be proved highly damaging to the Afghan state and nation and will put horrible consequences on the issue of peace and war, turning it against the Afghan government and people.

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