Mar 1, 2020 - World

Afghanistan president rejects Taliban prisoner swap in blow to U.S. deal

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani during a press conference on March 1. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that he will not release 5,000 Taliban prisoners ahead of peace talks next week, as laid out in a peace agreement that the U.S. signed with the Taliban on Saturday, according to AP.

Why it matters: Ghani’s public disagreement with the contents of the agreement presents the first major hurdle in its implementation, which is crucial to ending America’s longest war.

What they're saying: Ghani said in a news conference that the U.S. could not promise a prisoner swap because it is his government's sovereign right to release and accept prisoners. He said he is not ready to release prisoners before negotiations begin.

  • “The request has been made by the United States for the release of prisoners and it can be part of the negotiations but it cannot be a precondition,” Ghani said.

The other side: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not directly address Ghani's comments in an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday, instead saying that the U.S. "will work with all relevant parties to build on confidence, to create confidence-building measures amongst all of the parties, the Afghan government, non-Taliban, and others in the Afghan."

  • "No one is under any illusion that this will be straightforward," Pompeo said. "We've built an important base where we can begin to bring American soldiers home, reduce the risk of the loss of life of any American in Afghanistan, and hopefully set the conditions so the Afghan people can build out a peaceful resolution to their, now what for them is a 40-year struggle."

Go deeper: U.S. reaches "huge milestone moment" in Afghanistan peace process

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U.S. troops begin withdrawing from Afghanistan

Afghani President Ashraf Ghani. Photo: Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan on Tuesday under the peace agreement signed by the U.S. and Taliban last month, reports the AP.

The state of play: The move comes amid ongoing political tensions in Afghanistan as Kabul hosted two presidential inaugurations on Monday, with both incumbent Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah continuing to insist that they won the last election.

Go deeperArrowMar 10, 2020 - World

In Afghanistan, a deal but no peace

Taliban fighters celebrate the deal. Photo: Wali Sabawoon/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Today offered an immediate reminder that while a deal was struck Saturday for the U.S. to begin to leave Afghanistan, peace remains elusive.

Driving the news: The Taliban said it had resumed offensive operations against Afghan forces following a "reduction in violence" during negotiations.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - World

Trump speaks with Taliban leader, claims "very good" relationship

It's no Nixon to China moment, but President Trump made history today with what is apparently the first presidential phone call with a top Taliban leader.

Why it matters: The prospect of a peaceful end to America's longest war is on the line.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 3, 2020 - World