WASHINGTON -- A number of Taliban prisoners whom the Afghan government released as a condition for peace talks have taken up arms again, Chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah said Tuesday (September 22).
Discussions with the Taliban in Qatar so far have been positive, said Abdullah.
However, he said some -- though not the majority -- of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners released by the government as a condition for talks had resumed the fight against Kabul.
"I do know that some have returned to the battlefield, which is a violation of the agreement that they had made," Abdullah said during an online conference with the US Council on Foreign Relations.
Talks between the two sides began in Doha on a positive note, as the delegations build some familiarity with each other, said Abdullah.
Yet the level of violence inside Afghanistan has not fallen, and he called on the United States, which launched the peace process with its own deal with the Taliban and Pakistan to pressure them to agree to a ceasefire.
"Unfortunately, so far, the level of violence is very high and to a level that is not acceptable for the people," Abdullah said.
"I repeat my call to the Taliban themselves and also to all partners who have any leverage over the Taliban to press on that point."
Abdullah said he planned to visit Pakistan in the coming days for the first time since 2008.
Violence levels 'too high'
The persistent violence and the Taliban's failure to sever relations with the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups were singled out as barriers to success by US officials testifying in Congress September 22.
A drawdown of US troops, under the US-Taliban agreement, will halt at about 4,500 remaining in Afghanistan in November while Washington assesses whether the insurgents are living up to their pledges, said US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
"Further withdrawals will be determined based on conditions on the ground and delivery by the Taliban on their commitments," Khalilzad told a hearing of the House of Representatives oversight committee.
The US has slashed troop numbers in Afghanistan by more than half from above 12,000.
Washington has pledged to withdraw all forces by May 2021, if the Taliban and the government can achieve a solid peace agreement.
"By any measure, the current levels of violence are too high. We know that the reductions are possible," Khalilzad said, noting that the Taliban respected short ceasefires in the past.