The United States envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, held on Monday the exchange of prisoners between the Afghan government and the Taliban. That militia released about twenty members of the Afghan security forces it was holding on Monday, in response to the release of several hundred of its members. It is a first step for the agreement signed between Washington and these Afghan insurgents to allow the withdrawal of US troops from the Asian country. The fear that this moment will come, however, has led the Sikh and Hindu minorities to demand greater protection and international aid.
“The release of prisoners is an important step in the peace process and the reduction of violence,” Khalilzad has tweeted. “Both sides should accelerate efforts to achieve the objectives specified in the US-Taliban agreement as soon as possible. The risk of outbreaks of covid-19 in prisons poses a real threat and is yet another reason to act urgently, “he adds.
Still, the desire to end nearly two decades of civil war and pressure from Washington (eager to pull its troops out of Afghanistan) have led to the swap being launched , albeit with delays . The Afghan government has so far released 361 Taliban militants from Bagram prison, according to Javid Faisal, spokesman for the National Security Council. In addition, “the releases will continue in other penitentiaries until a total of 1,500 prisoners are released.”
That is the figure that the president, Ashraf Ghani, set to test the seriousness of the other party . Before proceeding with the releases, he explained, he wanted to make sure that both the Taliban released police and soldiers, and that those released refrained from taking up arms again and the militia maintained its “reduction in violence.” This euphemism refers to a lesser intensity of their attacks that does not amount to a ceasefire as President Ghani initially asked.
For now, the Taliban released images of their first released on Sunday. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that it had facilitated the transfer of 20 members of the Afghan security forces detained by the Taliban to the governor’s office in Kandahar, in the south of the country. The delivery took place in one of the regions of that province under the Taliban. It is estimated that the group controls to a greater or lesser extent half of the Afghan territory, although they are the least populated areas.
But if the confirmation of the exchange meets Washington’s plans, the prospect of the Taliban’s return to Kabul after the withdrawal of foreign forces is of great concern to minorities . A coalition of Sikh activists in the United States has urgently called on the White House to allow the immediate resettlement in that country of the tiny Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. They recall that, despite the efforts of the Kabul government to protect them, both are especially vulnerable to militant violence, and will be even more so when NATO troops begin to withdraw. At the end of March, at least 25 Sikhs died in an attackagainst the temple where they prayed in Kabul. The self-styled Islamic State, an even more radical and sectarian group than the Taliban, was responsible for the attack.