April 7 (UPI) -- The Taliban said Tuesday it has suspended intra-Afghan peace talks with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul over a dispute concerning the deal to release prisoners.
About 5,000 Taliban prisoners were supposed to be released as part of a peace deal reached last month between the group and U.S. negotiators.
Matin Bek, leader of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, said the Taliban demanded 15 commanders be freed as part of the first wave of those freed. The Afghan government, however, has refused.
"We are ready to release 400 [prisoners] in the first phase," Bek said Monday. "It is the Taliban who do not want this. They are asking for the release of the 15 [commanders]. If we release the 15 individuals, their hands are stained with people's blood."
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said it will no longer participate in what he called "fruitless meetings" if delays continue.
"Unfortunately, their release has been delayed under one pretext or another till now," Shaheen tweeted. "Therefore, our technical team will not participate ... starting from [Tuesday]."
The peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government has already been slowed by Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who claims Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's election last summer was illegitimate.
The U.S. government has cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the ongoing dispute.