KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani is set to announce new steps for peace by next week, he said, which is expected to address the nation on the exact date and venue of negotiations with Taliban.
In a video conference with the Atlantic Council, the president expressed optimism for the beginning of peace negotiations with the Taliban who have so far refused any requests for direct talks.
“We do not have a two-headed government now,” said Ghani during the video conversation held on Friday. He, however, said that he works closely with Abdullah Abdullah, his electoral rival who agreed to run the reconciliation council, an entity responsible to persuade Taliban for peace talks with the government.
Ghani assured about the rights of women and minorities during the talks. “Finally, this is the people of Afghanistan who should confirm the agreement,” Ghani said, emphasizing that Afghanistan was now an open society at the age of cyber space.
The president promised to introduce two more women as his cabinet members, saying that “we will have four women ministers in the new cabinet.”
Ghani said that he had already released 3,000 Taliban prisoners and the release process was going on at the presence of a Taliban monitoring team. He said the rest 2,000 prisoners would be released “soon”.
Taliban demanded the release of their 5,000 comrades kept in government custody in a February peace deal the militants signed with the United States. The insurgents vowed in return to release 1,000 government employees including soldiers and police they are holding in custody. Ghani said that government troops held by Taliban have not been completely released, calling on the group to release all the 1,000 they had promised.
The president touched the US president’s announcement over the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan before the US presidential election slated for November, calling the announcement as “an insider decision” in the US. He said that Afghans “appreciate those soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan”.
He said about the “next scenarios” with Washington, but did not elaborate.
The president once again assured that Afghanistan would not be used against any state, but he would like Afghanistan to return to its historical role of connecting point of the region.