The Afghan government calls on the Taliban to return to the peace process

A spokesman for the Afghan government Sunday called on the Taliban to renounce violence and return to the suspended peace process between the two parties, following weeks of bloodshed in different parts of the country.

“It is time for the Taliban to renounce violence and engage in the peace process in a realistic way,” the spokesman, Siddiqui’s friend, tweeted on Sunday.

Siddiqui’s comments came a day after six civilians were killed and 12 others wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Ghazni province in the southeast of the country.

Meanwhile, an online dispute escalated today after Afghan Security Council spokesman Javed Faisal criticized the Taliban for the recent violence that killed 23 civilians last week.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid replied that it was illogical for the group to agree to a ceasefire before the inter-Afghan talks began.

Mujahid said that the Taliban were “left with no option but to continue the war,” and pointed the finger at the Afghan government for delaying the start of the talks.

Mujahid indicated that the talks will begin after the government releases all five thousand Taliban prisoners agreed upon with the government.

On Thursday, Faisal said that approximately 600 Taliban prisoners accused of stoning, drug-trafficking or murder cannot be released.

He added: “The implementation of the Doha agreement and the start of negotiations between the Afghans are necessary in order for us to work to alleviate the conflict and end the war, but they still exist, because we have not found a substitute yet”.

However, he stressed that “the completion of the prisoner exchange process and the start of negotiations between Afghans immediately, is the most correct and rational path to find a solution”.

On February 29, the Qatari capital, Doha, witnessed an agreement between the United States and the “Taliban” that paves the way, according to a timetable, for a gradual US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a prisoner exchange.

As the agreement stipulated the release of about 5,000 Taliban prisoners, compared to about 1,000 prisoners from the Afghan government.

Afghanistan has been plagued by war since October 2001, when an international military alliance toppled the Taliban, because it was then linked to al Qaeda, which adopted the September 11 attacks of the same year, in the United States.