By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - The Taliban on Sunday rejected mounting calls for cease-fire by the Afghan government and international community, saying they were yet to find "an alternative" to the ongoing insurgency.
The group's spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, said on Twitter that the implementation of the Doha deal signed between the US and Taliban on Feb. 29 and the start of intra-Afghan negotiations would be necessary for the conflict to de-escalate and end. "If anyone seeks ceasefire before talks then such is illogical. War is raging precisely b/c we have yet to find an alternative," he said.
Mujahed underlined that prisoner exchanges must be completed and intra-Afghan negotiations launched "immediately" for a resolution to the fighting.
Last week, Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani warned the peace process might face "serious challenges" if the Taliban continued with the war.
In a virtual conference with the representatives of some 20 regional countries and international organizations, Ghani underlined that though the Afghan government had the capacity and political will to end the war, it had offered the Taliban a political solution to move away from violence.
"The champions of peace will be people of Afghanistan and the region. Regional support for a democratic system in Afghanistan would further strengthen regional cooperation," he said.
The rejuvenated yet fragile Afghan peace deal hinges on sluggish prison swaps testing the patience of the warring parties.
In line with a landmark US-Taliban peace agreement -- which was only cautiously welcomed by the Afghan government -- some 5,000 Taliban prisoners should have been released months ago from government prisons in return for the estimated 1,000 captive security forces.
The freeing of prisoners came to a halt less than halfway through in May amid bitter exchanges and allegations, as well as a spike in violence across the war-ravaged country.
According to official sources, there are 12,000-15,000 inmates in Afghan government prisons, including militants from Pakistan, Central Asia and Gulf countries. No figures are available on captives held by the insurgents.