The Taliban demand for the release of its prisoners from Afghan jails cannot be a pre-condition to direct talks with the hardline group, Ghani told a news briefing in the capital, Kabul.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) with Afghan presidential election opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the presidential palace in Kabul on February 29, 2020.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) with Afghan presidential election opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the presidential palace in Kabul on February 29, 2020. (AFP)

The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners as stated in a pact signed between the United States and the Taliban, President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday.

The Taliban demand for the release of its prisoners from Afghan jails cannot be a pre-condition to direct talks with the hardline group, Ghani told a news briefing in the capital, Kabul.

Saturday's accord between the US and the Taliban said both were committed to work expeditiously to release combat and political prisoners as a confidence-building measure, with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides.

Up to 5,000 jailed Taliban will be released in exchange for up to 1,000 Afghan government captives by March 10, the pact added.

The announcement came after the Taliban's political chief met with senior diplomats from countries including Russia, Indonesia and Norway, hours after signing a deal with Washington aimed at ending the Afghan war.

Saturday's accord was signed in the Qatari capital Doha by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on hand to witness the ceremony.

Soon after the agreement, US President Donald Trump said he would be personally meeting leaders of the Taliban in the near future and rejected criticism surrounding the deal signed with the militants.

Supporters of the deal, which was signed after more than a year of fractious talks, say it marks a critical first step toward peace.

But many Afghans fear it amounts to little more than a dressed-up surrender that will ultimately see the Taliban return to power.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies