KABUL, MARCH 04 (DNA) : The Taliban late Tuesday extended a conditional offer to meet the Afghan officials shortly before their chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund, held a 35-minute phone call with US President Donald Trump, foreign media reported.
The call, which the group said took place around 1440 GMT Tuesday, came a day after the militants ended a partial truce. Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he had “a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban,” without naming him. “We’ve agreed there’s no violence. We don’t want violence. We’ll see what happens. …” The president appeared confident that the violence would wane, but indicated the ball was in the Taliban’s court. “They’re dealing with Afghanistan but we’ll see what happens. Wehad, actually, a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban.”
In a tweet, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that Akhund called Trump but did not provide any further details. The development comes a few days after the two sides signed a troop withdrawal agreement in Doha. “The President of the United States Trump @realDonaldTrump held a phone conversation with the Political Deputy of the Islamic Emirate, the respected Mullah Baradar Akhund,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter.
In a later emailed statement, Mujahid said that Trump told Baradar that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would soon speak to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani “so that the barriers against the inter-Afghan talks get removed.”
Earlier, the Taliban had said they were willing to meet the Afghan officials but only on the question of releasing prisoners amid concerns that the deadlock could jeopardise the Afghan peace process. “The Taliban delegation has not met with the government delegation in Qatar, but authorities responsible for prisoners on both sides could meet to discuss the issue,” the Taliban’s Doha office spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, tweeted.
The Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the prisoners’ release was one of the few important points that took the US and Taliban negotiators a long time to agree upon. But a day after the deal between the Taliban and US was clinched in Doha, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said his government had made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
The Taliban has said it will not begin talks with the Afghan government as envisaged in the agreement until the prisoner release takes place. “Now it is in the agreement and it is up to the US how it fulfils the commitments they made in the agreement. It is not our problem what is in the US-Afghan government joint declaration,” Mujahid said.
A transcript of the phone call released by the Taliban quoted fighter-turned-negotiator Mullah Baradar urging Trump to “take determined actions in regards to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan”. Baradar called on Trump to “not allow anyone to take actions that violate the terms of the agreement thus embroiling you even further in this prolonged war”, according to the Taliban transcript.
Ghani’s government last week sent a delegation to Qatar to open “initial contacts” with the insurgents but Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen on Tuesday said the militants would not meet Kabul´s representatives except to discuss the release of their captives.