Kabul [Afghanistan], Aug 16 (ANI): In a big blow to the Afghan reconciliation process, the Taliban on Saturday (local time) said that it does not recognise the Ashraf Ghani government as a legitimate system ahead of the intra-Afghan talks.
"The Islamic Emirate does not recognise the Kabul administration as a government but views it as western imported structure working for the continuation of American occupation," TOLOnews quoted the group as saying in a statement.
"Two days earlier, an advisor to Kabul administration's Arg stated that 'intra-Afghan' term ascribed to the negotiation process was incorrect and that talks were going to be held between the Kabul administration and Taliban along with other such remarks," the statement said.
In an interview with Iran's Hamshahri newspaper, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen reiterated that the group does not recognise the Afghan government as a legitimate government.
Shaheen described the Taliban as "winner of the war", asserting that the group will only attend the intra-Afghan talks to bring an Islamic government in Afghanistan.
He added that the group will speak with all Afghan factions and not only with the government.
Responding to the development, the Presidential Palace said the Taliban were wasting time and making irrelevant excuses, according to TOLOnews.
Government officials have called on the Taliban to accept the government as the main side of the negotiations.
The Taliban's statement comes days after the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) on August 9 approved the release of 400 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in a major breakthrough that is expected to pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed a decree to release 400 Taliban prisoners, as part of efforts to begin the talks, a source at the Presidential Palace said.
The release of prisoners was being considered as the last hurdle into resuming talks between the internationally-backed Afghan government and the Taliban under a peace deal between the group and the US.
The Afghan government has said they have released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners over a period of time, which is 400 less than the number decided during the US-Taliban deal. (ANI)