- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Taliban claims it has broken off peace talks with the Afghan government after disputes over an expected prisoner swap.

A Taliban spokesperson said Tuesday that the militant group would not participate in “fruitless” meetings with the Afghan government due to a dispute over the release of prisoners.

“We sent a technical team of the Prisoner’s Commission to Kabul for verification and identification of our prisoners as release of prisoners was to start as per the signed agreement and the promise made (to us,)” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, tweeted Tuesday.

“But, unfortunately, their release has been delayed under one pretext or another till now,” he said, pointing to President Ashraf Ghani’s administration for the hold up. “Therefore, our technical team will not participate in fruitless meetings with relevant sides starting from tomorrow.”

Suspending the highly anticipated talks could lead to a surge in violence and threaten the U.S.’ plan to withdraw troops as part of an agreement sealed earlier this year between the U.S. and Taliban.

Up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners were expected to be released under the landmark peace deal with the U.S., but Mr. Ghani refused to release the prisoners claiming he had not agreed to such a deal. He instead offered to conditionally release 1,500 prisoners.

The Feb. 29 U.S.-Taliban agreement called for the militant group and the Kabul government to start direct talks and release prisoners as a confidence-boosting measure. But neither the swap, slated for March 31, nor the negotiations have occurred.

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