The first jolt to intra-Afghan talks has been received as the Taliban have pulled out over a minor issue. The Taliban called off the negotiations after the Afghan government was showing reluctance in the release of the prisoners. The decision of the Taliban means the collapse of the already fragile peace deal between the Taliban and the United States (US). Can the Afghan government be blamed for sabotaging the peace process or are the Taliban responsible for the current political scene?

Perhaps, both sides share the blame. The Afghan government is definitely not honouring its commitment to release prisoners. This was visible earlier when the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani refused to release them as a “prerequisite for talks” last month. He wanted to deal with this issue as part of the intra-Afghan negotiations. And his reluctance to release all the prisoners at the same time is understandable; some will be needed for leverage during the talks. The Taliban however, is not willing to allow him that. Hence the rigidity that both sides are keen on showing is rupturing the process of negotiations apart.

Nevertheless, sanity must prevail. Both sides need to show some goodwill. While the government must start releasing the prisoners, the Taliban must also know that it is natural that the Ghani government is using the prisoners’ issue to gain some leverage in the intra-Afghan talks. Only this way, the delicate and complicated intra-Afghan dialogue can move further without any further impasse. Objectively speaking, the prisoners’ release is a small issue in the larger picture. And such minor issues must not bring the peace process down. Therefore, both sides need to find a way to get over these small hiccups. Otherwise, even after a deal has been struck, they will not be able to govern Afghanistan peacefully for too long.