Representatives from the Taliban met an Afghan government delegation in Saudi Arabia this week to discuss security ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections and a limited prisoner release, three Taliban officials said as reported by Reuters.
The upcoming parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on October 20. However, insecurity is considered to be a major challenge for the upcoming elections.
The government and the international community seek to ensure the election passes off smoothly and without violence.
“They requested us to help them conduct peaceful elections,” said one of the Taliban leaders.
“The Afghan delegation has agreed with us on the release of prisoners,” he said, adding that some prisoners facing minor charges had already been released and officials had divided up others into three categories, depending on their importance, for future release.
According to Reuters, President Ashraf Ghani’s office and the U.S. State Department declined to comment. No comment was available from Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman.
Citing Taliban representatives on condition of anonymity, the report said that the meeting in Saudi Arabia came after plans for another meeting with American officials broke down over U.S. demands for a three-month ceasefire.
“Some of our senior people were not in the favor of holding talks with the Afghan government as until now we were calling them puppets and refused to meet them,” said one senior Taliban leader in Qatar as quoted by Reuters.
“But our proposed meeting with the Americans failed to take place due to certain reasons,” he said.
The officials said U.S. demands for a ceasefire was something the leadership could not agree to. As a result, no formal meeting was held although there were informal contacts.
“Our agreement for holding the meeting was only to discuss prisoner exchange and the removal of our people from the UN black list so they can travel,” said one senior Taliban leader from the movement’s political office in Qatar as cited by Reuters.