In an effort to convince the Taliban to open negotiations, the Afghan government unconditionally released hundreds of Taliban prisoners.
Apparently, the mass release of Taliban fighters was not a one-time incident. It has actually been going on for quite a while. The Afghan government confirmed that 490 Taliban fighters and commanders have been released since the beginning of June, a time which roughly coincided with the Islamic holiday of Eid al Fitr, TOLONews reported. Nor will the recent release be the last. A total of 887 prisoners, all members of the Taliban, are slated to be released in the coming period.
What is quite fascinating about this news from Afghanistan is that the Taliban fighters were released without any demands in return from the Taliban or the militants themselves. They were not even required to denounce the Taliban or promise to quit the fight against the Afghan government. Historically, Taliban prisoners who have been freed from Afghan prisons have returned to the battlefield. On its part, the Taliban leadership has not even recognized the gestures and has not responded to any prisoner releases. Their position that the Afghan government is an illegitimate body remains the group’s official position.
The fact that the Afghan government unconditionally released hundreds of Taliban prisoners basically in a Hail Mary-type move underscores the desperation of both the U.S. and the Afghan government to push forward negotiations with the Taliban. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Johan Bass tried to present the release as a productive step. Bass welcomed the release of the insurgents, saying it would improve “the climate for a political settlement” to the conflict. “Lasting peace will be rooted in reconciliation and forgiveness by all,” Bass tweeted earlier this week.