Kabul [Afghanistan], April 7 (ANI): The Taliban on Tuesday broke off talks with the Afghan government on prisoner exchange, the main step in peace talks being brokered by the United States after it agreed on a troop withdrawal pact with the group.
"We sent a technical team of the prisoner's commission to Kabul for verification and identification of our prisoners as the release of prisoners was to start as per the signed agreement and the promise made (to us)," Taliban's spokesman Suhail Shaheed said in a tweet.
"But, unfortunately, their release has been delayed under one pretext or another till now. Therefore, our technical team will not participate in fruitless meetings with relevant sides starting from tomorrow," he said.
On Monday, the head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), Matin Bek, who is also a member of the negotiation team, was quoted by Tolo News that the reason for the delay in the release of Taliban prisoners is that the group is demanding the release of their 15 senior commanders who were involved in "big attacks."The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners is part of the deal signed by the US and the Taliban in Doha on February 29.
Bek said the demands reveal the Taliban's "stubbornness" and it is "not acceptable" as it will lead to the fall of provinces and the continuation of violence in the country.
"We are ready to release 400 (prisoners) in the first phase. It is the Taliban who do not want this. They are asking for the release of the 15 (commanders). If we release the 15 individuals, their hands are stained with people's blood," Bek told a press conference on Monday.
This comes as a Taliban statement on Sunday said the US-Taliban agreement had been violated, citing the delays with the prisoner release.
"Americans have fallen short in addressing their responsibilities, and one of them is the prisoner issue," said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban regime member.
Three Taliban representatives are in Kabul to discuss the release of prisoners with the Afghan officials. (ANI)