The Taliban has offered a three-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of 7,000 insurgent prisoners, an Afghan government negotiator said on Thursday, when Pakistan confirmed that the militant group had control of an important border crossing.
“There is a huge demand,” said Nader Nadery, a key member of the government group involved in peace talks with the Taliban, adding that the rebels also demanded that their leaders’ names be removed from a UN blacklist.
It was not immediately clear how the government would react to the ceasefire offer, or how new it was, and it will come when the United States accelerates the pace of a troop withdrawal that would be ready on 31 August.
A Taliban spokesman, whose leaders are scattered across the region, said he was only aware of the proposed ceasefire during the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.
Local Afghan leaders and the Taliban have agreed to a ceasefire in the western province of Badghis, its governor told AFP on Thursday.
“A ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban began at 10 a.m. today. The ceasefire was mediated by tribal elders,” Badghi Governor Hesamuddin Shams told AFP, adding that the ceasefire had no specific time frame.
Tear gas to disperse the crowds
Nadery’s revelation came as Pakistani security forces used tear gas on Thursday to disperse hundreds of people trying to cross the border from Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that the border crossing was in the hands of the Taliban.
“They have taken control of Spin Boldak’s border crossings,” said ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a day after the Taliban seized the city.
The border was closed on Wednesday by Pakistani officials after the Taliban seized Spin Boldak and raised rebellious flags above the city.
“An anxious crowd of about 400 people tried to cross the gate with force. They threw stones, forcing us to use tear gas,” said a Pakistani security official.
He said about 1,500 people had gathered at the border on Wednesday and were waiting to cross.
Jumadad Khan, a senior government official in Chaman, said the situation was now “under control”.
An Afghan Taliban source told AFP that hundreds of people had also gathered on the Afghan side in hopes of traveling in the other direction.
“We are talking to the Pakistani authorities. A formal meeting to open the border is scheduled for today, and hopefully it will open in a day or two,” he said.
Later on Thursday, a Pakistani border official told AFP that the border would open on Friday.
The crossing provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province – where the Taliban’s top leadership has been based for decades – along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to help strengthen their ranks.
A major highway leading from the border connects Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi and its vast port on the Arabian Sea, which is considered a pinch for Afghanistan’s billion-dollar heroin trade that has provided a major source of revenue for the Taliban’s coffers over the years. .
“Armistice to consolidate power”
Spin Boldak is the latest in a series of border crossings and dry ports that the rebels have seized in recent weeks, as they want to stifle the revenues that Kabul needs a lot while filling their own coffers.
“The bazaar is closed and traders are afraid that the situation will be bad,” Mohammad Rasoul, a trader in Spin Boldak, told AFP by telephone.
“They fear that their products will be looted. There are lots of opportunists waiting to loot.”
Muska Dastageer, a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan, said the Taliban’s ceasefire offer was a likely attempt by them to consolidate the positions they have gained so quickly in recent weeks.
“A ceasefire would now effectively ban the ANDSF from retaking the important frontier points that the Taliban has recently conquered,” she tweeted, referring to Afghan forces.
“I think the timing of the ceasefire offer has more to do with their desire to consolidate power over these areas.”
At least one Kabul resident said the Taliban could not be trusted.
“Last year, the government released 5,000 prisoners from the Taliban, but their release did not bring peace,” Ahmad Jawed told AFP.
“Instead, most are now fighting government forces.”
“Now they are asking for 7,000 prisoners to be released. That is a large number.”
Authorities released more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners last year to help start peace talks in Doha, but the talks have so far failed to reach a political solution, and recent offensives suggest the uprising is now set for a military victory.
(FRANCE 24 withAFP)