September 27, 2021

Afghanistan: Taliban offer ceasefire against release of 7,000 prisoners

The Taliban have offered a three-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of 7,000 of their own, held by the Afghan authorities, a government negotiator said Thursday (July 15th), the day after the insurgents took over the city. ‘a strategic axis with Pakistan.

Asked by AFP about this offer, a spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said he was not ‘aware of any plan for a three-month ceasefire’. But during Eid al-Adha, the ‘festival of sacrifice’ which lasts three days from July 20, ‘the (Taliban) leaders may consider a ceasefire,’ he added.

The Taliban’s offer is ‘a huge demand,’ a member of the government insurgent negotiations team, Nader Nadery, told reporters, adding that the insurgents are also calling for the names of the movement’s leaders to be removed from a UN ‘blacklist’.

Without commenting on the follow-up given to this proposal, he stressed that the previous release of 5,000 Taliban last year, a condition imposed on the opening of inter-Afghan talks in Qatar, had already been ‘a difficult demand’. hold on and that afterwards ‘the violence had not ceased and, on the contrary, had increased’.

While talks between the Afghan government and the rebels in Doha have stalled since they opened in September, Pakistan announced on Thursday that it would host an ‘Afghan peace conference’ from July 17 to 19, which will be attended by invited ‘key Afghan leaders’, but did not specify the agenda or expected participants.

In the meantime, the leaders of the province of Badghis, in the west of the country, whose capital Qala-i-Naw has been attacked for several days by the insurgents, have already concluded a ceasefire with the Taliban, Provincial Governor Hessamuddin Shams told AFP on Thursday. The latter explained that the ceasefire had ‘entered into force around 10 am today’, Thursday, and that it had ‘been negotiated by the traditional chiefs’.

A strategic ceasefire offer

Three months of ‘ceasefire would effectively prevent Afghan security forces from retaking crucial border posts that the Taliban recently seized’, said Muska Dastageer, professor at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. . ‘I think the timing of this ceasefire offer (from the Taliban) has more to do with their willingness to consolidate their hold over these areas.’

The Taliban have seized large parts of rural Afghanistan in the past two months, in an offensive launched in parallel with the final withdrawal of foreign troops from the country, which began in early May and is expected to be completed by the end of August. .

Deprived of crucial American support, the Afghan forces offered little resistance and essentially controlled only the provincial capitals and the main roads.

Pakistan, long accused of supporting the Taliban, confirmed Thursday that the insurgents had taken control of the border post in the Afghan district of Spin Boldak, the main crossing point between the two countries.

This passage opens onto the Pakistani province of Balochistan, reputed to house part of the Taliban leadership, in the Pakistani city of Quetta, or the wounded Taliban who are being treated there.

An essential crossing point

It also connects landlocked Afghanistan to the road leading to the Pakistani port of Karachi on the Arabian Sea, its only gateway to the ocean.

‘It is the most important crossing point, where a large part of the cross-border trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan takes place’ and ‘which crosses about 20,000 people per day’, said Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, spokesperson. of the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

‘The livelihoods of many people depend on it,’ he said, saying ‘it is important to reopen the border crossing as soon as possible’, closed since the Taliban seized it on Wednesday.

In recent weeks, insurgents have already taken over key border posts with Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

On Thursday, the Taliban patrolled the town of Spin Boldak, now controlling the key axis connecting Kandahar, the large city in southern Afghanistan, a hundred kilometers away, at the border post with Pakistan.

Likewise, at the border post on the Afghan side, the Taliban’s white banner still floated on Thursday, which replaced the Afghan flag the day before, noted an AFP correspondent on the Pakistani side.

A Taliban official said discussions were underway with Pakistani authorities to reopen the border.