TALIBAN ACCUSE AFGHAN GOVT OF RE-ARRESTING INSURGENTS
The Taliban accused Afghan security forces on Sunday of re-arresting insurgents who had been released as part of a crucial prisoner swap meant to kick-start peace talks.
They said the National Directorate of Security (NDS) had detained an unspecified number of insurgents released under the exchange programme, warning Kabul would “bear responsibility for the consequences”.
“They are incessantly raided, detained and put behind the bar by NDS of the Kabul (administration),” Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
Javid Faisal, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Council, said the claim was “incorrect”.
“It’s their way of sabotaging the peace efforts and the peace talks that should start,” he said.
The prisoner swap has been a major stumbling block in getting Kabul and the Taliban to start peace talks.
Under a deal between the US and the Taliban, the Afghan government is supposed to release 5,000 insurgent prisoners and the Taliban 1,000 government inmates.
Kabul has released most of the 5,000 insurgents but the NDS has said some of the Taliban inmates are returning to the battlefield.
Peace talks were originally supposed to begin by March 10 but the deadline passed amid political disarray in Kabul and as the prisoner swap stalled.
In the months since, violence levels have soared across Afghanistan, with the Taliban carrying out near-daily attacks against security forces.
On Saturday, Faisal said the Taliban killed 46 civilians in more than 400 “terrorist activities” in the past week.
“Peace requires commitment and will, which aren’t visible in the actions of the Taliban,” he said on Twitter.
On Saturday, the US State Department said Zalmay Khalilzad, its special envoy who has been leading negotiations with the Taliban, would return to the region to “press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations”.
“Although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve,” the department said in a statement.
Khalilzad will visit Doha, where the Taliban have a political office, as well as Kabul and Islamabad before heading to Europe to brief Nato.
Pakistan’s support for any peace push is key, according to many analysts.
Meanwhile, a UN report has said the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan province, has been hit hard by Afghan security forces as well as US and Nato forces, and even on occasion by the Afghan Taliban.
The report was prepared by the UN analytical and sanctions monitoring team, which tracks terrorist groups around the world.
The report estimated the membership of IS in Afghanistan at 2,200, and while its leadership has been depleted, IS still counts among its leaders a Syrian national Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani.
The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior IS commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.