Khalilzad urges Taliban to agree to ceasefire

Kabul, April 26 (IANS) Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, on Sunday urged the Taliban to call a humanitarian ceasefire during the holy month of Ramzan

“Ramadan offers the Taliban an opportunity to embrace a humanitarian ceasefire to reduce violence and suspend offensive military operations until the health crisis is over,” TOLO News quoted Khalilzad as saying in a tweet.

“Both sides must also accelerate the release of prisoners. The war on COVID-19 makes it urgent and will also aid the peace process including getting intra-Afghan negotiations underway,” he said.

Last week, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appealed to the Taliban for a ceasefire, citing the special conditions of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen responded by saying the government’s inattention to “thousands” of prisoners, who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, made Ghani’s appeal insincere, and this and other factors made a ceasefire improbable.

Ghani’s appeal comes as dozens of Afghan security force members have lost their lives in Taliban attacks over the last week.

The Taliban is demanding the release of 5,000 prisoners by the Afghan government based on the US-Taliban agreement.

The Afghan government has agreed to the release of 1,500 prisoners but through a conditioned and gradual process.

According to National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, five out of 15 prisoners specifically requested by the Taliban were involved in major attacks in Kabul.