During talks on Tuesday with Lakdar Brahimi, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, the commander of the Taliban’s northern opponents offered to release more than 1,000 Taliban prisoners from his control in an effort to push the tentative Afghan peace process forward. “We are ready to exchange all our prisoners if the Taliban do the same,” said northern opposition alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Masood.
Both the Taliban and Northern Alliance agreed to exchange 20 prisoners through the International Committee of the Red Cross as part of The Ashgabad Agreement, formed during recent UN-sponsored talks in Turkmenistan.
Masood had also pledged to Brahimi that fighting would cease until the next round of peace talks. However, reports suggest that the Taliban has escalated the fighting, jeopardizing the peace process. Brahimi said that much of the fighting appears to have been initiated by Taliban forces.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, in September 1996 and now control about 90 percent of Afghanistan. Masood has defeated the Taliban militia’s attempts to establish control in remote parts of northern Afghanistan.