The end of war in Afghanistan threatened by the coronavirus pandemic

Apr. 21 – According to internal sources linked with the parts, the U.S. peace plan that should have end the war in Afghanistan is in danger, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, the plan included an exchange of Taliban and government prisoners which is now jeopardized by the virus and the danger of contracting it. If this should happen, and some prisoners would die, the whole deal might fail and be canceled.

“If … a good number of prisoners on either side contract the disease or die in prison because of an outbreak, it will be a humanitarian issue and it will make intra-Afghan negotiations that much more difficult,” said to Reuters an anonymous source familiar with the matter.

Last 29th February a potentially historical deal between U.S. and Taliban forces was signed: the withdrawal of U.S. forces (after more than 18 years of intervention) and their release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in change of the release of 1,000 detainees, which are in custody by the Taliban insurgents.

GHŌR, Afghanistan – Former Taliban fighters line up to handover their Rifles to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound (Photo by Joe Painter – CC BY 2.0)

The Taliban asked the immediate release of all 5,000 prisoners before negotiations and stepped up attacks on Afghan security forces. The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani refused and asked for a first release of 1,500 prisoners in change of 40 freed detainees from the other side.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has spread in Afghanistan, with nearly 1,000 cases confirmed, and this raises the worries about prisoners’ life conditions in jail and the danger that the virus will become another obstacle to this controversial agreement.

On the other side, an expert outside of the U.S. government noted many countries have freed prisoners because of the disease and suggested this might be a face-saving way for all parties to accelerate the releases. Kabul might cite humanitarian reasons for freeing Taliban detainees so that, as the expert said to Reuters, “it’s not necessarily Ghani capitulating to Taliban demands,”, who deals with U.S. and Afghan officials.

U.S President Donald Trump’s main objective is to accelerating the withdraw of troops from Afghanistan and showing it as a foreign policy victory ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.

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