US says there’s no secret deal with Afghanistan: Ashraf Ghani
The United States, on August 9, said that there’s no “secret deal” with Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani confirmed this after the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) approved the release of 400 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture.
Ghani asked the US if there is a consensus on an independent and democratic Afghanistan, to which the White House replied “yes”.
The Loya Jirga assembly issued a resolution with 25 articles, wherein it urged the international community to cease direct and indirect intervention in Afghanistan’s affairs and to stop their support for terror groups. The resolution also said the people and the government of Afghanistan must be assured that the released Taliban prisoners “will not return to war and their activity will be monitored.”
The release of prisoners was being considered as the last hurdle into opening peace talks between the internationally-backed Afghan government and the Taliban under a peace deal between the group and the US.
The Afghan government has said they have released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners over a period of time, which is 400 less than the number decided during the US-Taliban deal. The government is hesitating to release the remaining prisoners due to their serious crimes.
Ghani, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other political figures have called on the Taliban for an immediate start to the intra-Afghan talks to end the two-decades-long war in Afghanistan.
The resolution said members of Loya Jirga will welcome and support the peace process, which leads to “lasting and dignified peace” and stability in the country.
Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen reportedly acknowledged the Afghan government’s decision, saying, it was a “good step, a positive step”.
The Loya Jirga has called for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in the country and urged the international community, particularly the US to fulfil its commitments to the people of Afghanistan. The resolution noted that peace negotiations should not “violate the principles of democracy and the rights of the Afghan people, especially ethnic and religious minorities”.
The Loya Jirga stressed that women comprise half of the population and should have specific legal and political rights and should be given important roles in the peace process.
Furthermore, the resolution stated that a clear mechanism should be discussed during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, which “should lead to social order, the security of facilities and infrastructure and stability in the country and address the concerns of the Afghan people”.
According to reports, Suhail Shaheen has said that the Taliban is ready to begin intra-Afghan negotiations within a week if the release of prisoners is completed. He also said the first round of negotiations is expected to be held in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban has a political office.