Afghan President Ashraf Ghani started a process of releasing up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill on Sunday after the insurgents proposed a surprising ceasefire during the Eid holiday.
President Ghani also said the government is ready to conduct peace talks with the Taliban after accepting its offer of a three-day ceasefire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which starts on Sunday and marks the end of Ramadan Muslim fasting month.
The decision to release the prisoners was a "gesture of goodwill" and was made "to ensure the success of the peace process," Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.
Ghani said the previous Sunday that he would speed up the Taliban inmate release process.
A US-Taliban agreement signed in February stipulated that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the insurgents would free around 1,000 Afghan security forces.
The exchange of prisoners is seen as a confidence-building step before the long-awaited peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
Before the announcement on Sunday, Kabul had already released around 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents released around 300 Afghan security forces.
Ghani also said a government delegation was "ready to start peace talks immediately."
Government negotiators were led by Ghani's former bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah after the two signed a power-sharing agreement last week that ended a months-long political crisis.
Liberated Taliban are not allowed to fight
The Taliban have repeatedly mocked members of the Ghani government and called them "puppets" controlled by foreign powers.
The militants' ceasefire offer comes just days after leader Haibatullah Akhundzada called on Washington to "not miss" the opportunity provided by the US agreement to create the conditions for foreign troops to be withdrawn from the country.
The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered the deal, said on Twitter on Saturday that the ceasefire was "a significant opportunity not to be missed" while promising that the United States would "contribute to." Would provide help ".
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also urged the two sides to take the opportunity to start peace talks, the first step being the release of prisoners.
However, in a statement released on Sunday, he said he expected that "the Taliban would abide by their obligation not to allow released prisoners to return to the battlefield."
He also urged the two sides to avoid escalating violence after the oath.
The government of US President Donald Trump is committed to ending America's longest war. To withdraw foreign forces, US officials have urged the Taliban and leaders to hold peace talks.
However, analysts say the Taliban was encouraged by the agreement with the U.S., and Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since its signature, killing 420 civilians and injuring 906.
"Do you want lasting peace"
Khalilzad has claimed that the insurgents have maintained their end of the deal by not attacking the coalition forces, even if recent violence has violated the spirit of the agreement.
His comments came after a terrible attack on a maternity home in Kabul that killed dozens, including mothers and young children, and a suicide bombing at a funeral.
The Taliban denied involvement in the attacks, but Ghani blamed them and the Islamic State group for the violence.
The war-weary residents of Kabul were relieved after the armistice was announced.
"I am happy that we are experiencing a rare ceasefire in Afghanistan," said 18-year-old hairdresser Abidullah Nasimi when he offered morning prayers in a Kabul mosque.
"But that's not enough, we want a permanent ceasefire and an end to the bloodshed so that we have lasting peace in the country."
Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, there has been only one more break in the fighting – a three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and Kabul, which also marks the end of the oath in 2018.
This ceasefire was initiated by Ghani.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)