Afghanistan: Taliban prisoner release amid Eid al-Fitr ceasefire – BBC News

100 Taliban prisoners released from the Bagram prison in line with the peace deal last month

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Afghan government handout

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These Taliban prisoners were released last month in line with a US-Taliban peace deal

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has announced the release of up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners, after the Islamist group proposed a ceasefire.

The announcement came shortly after the Taliban agreed the surprise three-day truce with Mr Ghani’s government for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

The president said their release was a “goodwill gesture” designed “to ensure the success of the peace process”.

Mr Ghani also said his government was ready to hold further peace talks.

“President Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners… in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire,” a presidential spokesman wrote on Twitter.

The issue of Taliban prisoners has proved a contentious one during the peace talks between Mr Ghani’s government and the hardline Islamist group.

Last month, historic face-to-face talks broke down over a prisoner swap – part of a US-Taliban deal signed in February without the involvement of the government.

Arguments over the swap – involving thousands of Taliban fighters and 1,000 pro-government forces – delayed the start of further peace talks.

But the latest announcement is likely to raise hopes among Afghans and international observers of a longer-term reduction in violence as well as possible progress in any future talks.

What’s the bigger picture?

On Saturday, the Taliban announced a three-day truce which was to begin on Sunday.

Both sides have so far respected the ceasefire, which followed a rise in attacks by the Taliban against government troops.

Afghanistan: Taliban prisoner release amid Eid al-Fitr ceasefire - BBC News 1

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Media captionIs peace with the Taliban possible?

Afghans and international observers had hoped for a reduction in violence between the two sides following the signing of a troop withdrawal agreement between the Taliban and the US in February.

It was designed to bring peace to Afghanistan, ending 18 years of war since US-led forces ousted the Islamist group from power.

Under the deal, US President Donald Trump announced 5,000 US troops would leave the country by May and he would meet leaders of the Taliban in the near future. US and Nato troops will withdraw from the country within 14 months, as long as the Taliban uphold their side of the deal.

But US officials also agreed to the prisoner swap as a first step in talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban – who are still technically at war.

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