KABUL -- The Taliban are prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month after the holiday of Eid ul Adha, the insurgents said Thursday (July 23), provided that the sides complete their prisoner swap.
The conditional offer marks the first occasion either side has floated a timeline for talks since warring parties blew past a March 10 deadline to begin negotiations.
The development comes amid soaring violence across the country.
The Taliban are "likely ... ready to begin intra-Afghan negotiations immediately after Eid in case the process of the release of the prisoners is completed," Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
The Taliban are ready to release the remaining Afghan security force prisoners in their custody, as long as Kabul frees all insurgent inmates "as per our list already delivered" to authorities, he added.
The prisoner-exchange issue, agreed to under the auspices of a deal between the United States and the Taliban, has proved a major sticking point ahead of peace talks.
The Afghan government is supposed to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, while the insurgents have pledged to free 1,000 Afghan security personnel in their custody.
So far, Kabul has released about 4,400 Taliban captives. The militants say they have freed 864 government inmates.
Several of the freed Taliban inmates were dangerous fighters who quickly returned to the battlefield, said Afghan National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal.
"The Taliban ... must stick to their commitments of stopping the freed prisoners from going back to violence," he said on Twitter.
"Stop violence; get ready for intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible," he said soon after Shaheen's tweet.
Amid progress on the prisoner exchange, violence levels have soared across Afghanistan, with the Taliban carrying out near-daily attacks against security forces.
In one incident in Nangarhar Province Wednesday (July 22), at least 31 Taliban fighters were killed in clashes with security forces, the Defence Ministry said.
In a series of tweets, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan warned of a "spiralling cycle of violence", and mission chief Deborah Lyons called for a ceasefire over the Eid festival.
During a separate festival marking the end of Ramadan in May, the Taliban called a three-day ceasefire, marking only the second official truce in the war.