Taliban offers Afghan government three-month ceasefire in exchange for 7,000 prisoners

The Taliban have offered a three-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of 7,000 insurgent prisoners, an Afghan government negotiator said Thursday, when Pakistan confirmed the militant group was in control of a key border crossing.

“It’s a big demand,” said Nader Nadery, a key member of the government team involved in peace talks with the Taliban, adding that the insurgents also demanded the removal of the names of their leaders from a United Nations blacklist. .

It wasn’t immediately clear how the government would respond to the ceasefire offer, or how new it was, and it comes as the United States picks up the pace of a troop withdrawal due to be completed by August 31.

A spokesman for the Taliban, whose leaders are scattered across the region, said he was only aware of the suggestion of a ceasefire during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.

Local Afghan leaders and the Taliban have agreed on a ceasefire in the western province of Badghis, the governor told AFP on Thursday.

“The ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban began around 10 a.m. today. The ceasefire was brokered by tribal elders,” Badghis governor Hesamuddin Shams told AFP, adding that the ceasefire did not specifically time frame.

Tear gas to disperse crowds

Nadery’s revelation came when Pakistani security forces on Thursday used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people trying to cross the border from Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that the border crossing is in the hands of the Taliban.

“They have taken control of the Spin Boldak border crossing,” said ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a day after the Taliban captured the city.

The border was closed by Pakistani officials on Wednesday after the Taliban captured Spin Boldak and raised insurgent flags over the city.

“An unruly crowd of about 400 people tried to forcefully cross the gate. They threw stones, forcing us to use tear gas,” said a Pakistani security official.

He said about 1,500 people had gathered at the border on Wednesday to cross.

Jumadad Khan, a senior government official in Chaman, said the situation is now “under control”.

An Afghan Taliban source told AFP that hundreds of people had also gathered on the Afghan side in hopes of traveling in the other direction.

“We are in talks with the Pakistani authorities. A formal meeting is scheduled to open the border today, and hopefully it will open in a day or two,” he said.

Later on Thursday, a Pakistani border official told AFP that the border would open on Friday.

The border crossing provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province — home to the Taliban’s top leadership for decades — along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to bolster their ranks.

A major highway leading from the border connects Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi and the sprawling port on the Arabian Sea, which is considered a hub for Afghanistan’s multi-billion dollar heroin trade that has been a crucial source of income over the years. for the Taliban war chest.

Ceasefire to consolidate power

Spin Boldak is the latest in a series of border crossings and dry ports seized by the insurgents in recent weeks as they seek to stifle the revenue Kabul so desperately needs while filling their own coffers.

“The bazaar is closed and traders are afraid that the situation will get bad,” Mohammad Rasoul, a trader in Spin Boldak, told AFP by phone.

“They fear their products will be looted. There are dozens of opportunists waiting to loot.”

Muska Dastageer, a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan, said the Taliban’s offer of a ceasefire was a likely attempt by them to consolidate the positions they’ve gained so quickly in recent weeks.

“A ceasefire would now effectively prohibit ANDSF from retaking the crucial border points recently captured by the Taliban,” she tweeted, referring to Afghan forces.

“I think the timing of this ceasefire has more to do with their desire to consolidate power over these areas.”

At least one Kabul resident said the Taliban could not be trusted.

“Last year the government released 5,000 Taliban prisoners, but their release did not bring peace,” Ahmad Jawed told AFP.

“Instead, most of them are now fighting government forces.”

“Now they’re asking for the release of 7,000 prisoners. That’s a big number.”

Authorities released more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners last year to help kick-start peace talks in Doha, but negotiations have so far failed to reach a political settlement, and the latest offensives suggest the insurgents are now aiming for military victory. .

( Jowharwith AFP)

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