Plans for the Afghan government to begin releasing Taliban prisoners were stalled on Saturday over disagreements on the number of detainees to be released and guarantees that they will not return to fighting, a government security spokesman said. The Taliban promised to open talks with the Afghan government as part of an accord reached with the United States last month to end 18 years of US involvement in war in Afghanistan. The militants say the agreement requires the government to release 5,000 prisoners before talks begin. The government says the talks must begin and violence subside before it will free all the detainees.Earlier this week, President Ashraf Ghani agreed to free 1,500 prisoners on Saturday with plans to release the remainder once conditions were met. “We are ready to start the process the way it is described in the presidential decree but we won’t release anyone if there is no guarantee that they will not return to fighting,” said Javid Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan government’s national security advisor. “The Taliban have to show flexibility,” he said. The Taliban are refusing to accept a partial release of the prisoners or any conditions on their release, its spokesman said. “Our stance on the prisoners’ release is crystal clear. They should be released without any pre-condition the way it is mentioned on the US-Taliban peace agreement,” Zabihullah Mujahid said. “We have not agreed to any extra dialogue or conditions,” he added.Earlier this week, the Taliban had said that a plan from the Afghan president to stagger the release of Taliban prisoners violated an accord they struck with the United States and that they would not talk with the Afghan government until all 5,000 prisoners are freed. A February 29 pact between Taliban and the United States has cleared the way for the withdrawal of US-led international forces after more than 18 years of war, but peace has to be negotiated between the militants and the US-backed government. The Taliban have promised to open talks with the government as part of the accord but say the release of their 5,000 comrades held by the government is also part of the deal, and they won’t talk until all are freed.President Ashraf Ghani has declined to release all 5,000 in one go. Instead, he has ordered the release of an initial 1,500, with the other 3,500 to be set free in parallel with progress in the peace talks. Officials and experts say the issue poses a major hurdle to starting peace talks, alongside an additional challenge of rising discord between Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah.Both men say they are the country’s rightful leader. Their intense feuding is leading to the risk of parallel governments being formed and is hindering the appointment of a delegation to negotiate with the Taliban.The main element of the US withdrawal agreement is a Taliban promise that they will not let Afghanistan used by terrorists to attack the United States and its allies. The pact will let US President Donald Trump fulfill his promise to end the war and bring the entire troops home within 14 months. The release of the prisoners – including some 1,000 government troops held by the militants – is meant to be a confidence-building measure to pave the way for the so-called intra-Afghan talks. The conflicting positions on the issue between the Taliban and Ghani’s government appears to stem from different wording in documents exchanged between the United States and the Taliban on the one hand and United States and government on the other.