Auto bomb kills at least 17 in Afghanistan ahead of ceasefire

FILE- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks after he was sworn in at an inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul

There are hopes of a permanent truce but peace talks have been delayed due to prisoner exchanges.

Of the 400 prisoners left, around 200 are accused by the Afghan government of masterminding attacks on embassies, public squares and government offices, killing thousands of civilians in recent years and including a huge 2017 blast targeting the German Embassy in Kabul. CSTC-A said this has been "perhaps the most complex and challenging period in the last two decades" for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

In a speech, Mr. Ghani said another 500 prisoners will be released in a bid to "accelerate the peace talks". Authorities have released 4,600 of those prisoners but are hesitating over the final 400, deeming them too risky.

President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban have both signalled that peace talks could begin straight after Eid, and there are widespread calls for the warring parties to extend the ceasefire.

During spring 2020, the Afghan security forces paid a heavy price as the Taliban maneuvered itself into a stronger negotiating position. Just $5 a month.

There were no immediate reports of major fighting across the country.

Since signing the February deal, the Taliban have largely refrained from attacking cities and have not hit USA troops.

According to Afghan news outlet Tolo, Yasin Khan, the governor of the southern province of Helman, has pointed to an increasing Al Qaeda footprint in the district along the Durand Line with Pakistan as well as the border pockets between Afghanistan and Iran.

"The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban of a ceasefire to enable the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday in peace", said a statement issued by the United Nations on Thursday. When asked if Taliban attacks on ANDSF violate the agreement, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) told SIGAR in late June "The assessment of Taliban compliance with the agreement is still under interagency review".

The Taliban's gambit is working. It's not clear how the potential decision to withdraw additional troops has fared under the present situation.

The U.S. -Taliban accord signed in February stipulated Kabul would release 5,000 insurgents in return for 1,000 government forces held captive by the militant group.

The armed conflict between the government and the Taliban continues.

In a message from Maulvi Hibatullah Akhundzada on Tuesday, the Taliban leader framed the group's pitch: "The Islamic Emirate has fulfilled its obligations regarding signing an agreement with the United States ... and efforts toward launching intra-Afghan negotiations".

He said other ideas put forward were releasing the prisoners without publicly announcing it, agreeing to release prisoners shortly after negotiations start, or persuading the Taliban to compromise on the most contentious 200 prisoners.

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