Imprisoned Taliban fighters await their release as part of a reintegration shura on Forward Operation Base Pasab, Zharay district, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2011. The shura is to coordinate the reintegration process throughout the Task Force Spartan area of operation and to celebrate the release of prisoners as part of the reintegration process. US Army photo by Spc. Jason Nolte
This article was originally published Aug. 16, 2020, on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The Afghan government says it has started releasing 400 Taliban militants, the final part of a prisoner swap meant to clear the way for the start of peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
A group of 80 Taliban prisoners were released on August 13, the Afghan National Security Council announced on Twitter.
The prisoner release would “speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting, nationwide cease-fire,” the security body said.
President Ashraf Ghani announced on August 9 his intention to release the 400 Taliban militants, many of whom have been convicted for deadly attacks on Afghans and foreigners.
The decision came shortly after the move was recommended by a traditional Loya Jirga consultative assembly in Kabul.
The release of the prisoners is the last hurdle to opening peace talks between the internationally backed government in Kabul and the Taliban under a peace deal signed in February between the militants and the United States.
Both sides have said that within days of the final prisoners being released they are ready to begin intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar.
There was no immediate response from the Taliban about the prisoner release.
But on August 12 the Taliban issued a statement warning that detainees released from Pul-e Charkhi prison, the country’s largest detention facility in Kabul, faced “a serious security threat.”
The Taliban claimed that the rival Islamic State extremist group, in cooperation with some government spoilers, planned to attack vehicles transporting the remaining detainees to disrupt intra-Afghan negotiations.
Kabul had already freed 4,600 Taliban inmates out of the 5,000 pledged in the landmark U.S.-Taliban deal.
Afghan officials have described the remaining prisoners as the most dangerous, accusing them of masterminding attacks on embassies, public squares, and government offices, killing thousands of civilians in recent years.
The Taliban says it has freed all 1,000 government prisoners it had pledged in the agreement with the United States.
In addition to the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops, the U.S.-Taliban deal calls on the Taliban to guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks on the United States or its allies.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview on August 8 that the United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November.
Although the Taliban hasn’t targeted U.S. forces since the February deal, militants have carried out multiple attacks on government forces that have killed 3,560 Afghan security personnel.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has documented more than 1,280 Afghan civilian deaths during the first half of 2020 — mainly as a result of fighting between government forces and the Taliban.
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
RFE/RL's mission is to promote democratic values by providing accurate, uncensored news and open debate in countries where a free press is threatened and disinformation is pervasive. RFE/RL reports the facts, undaunted by pressure.
RFE/RL is registered with the IRS as a private, nonprofit Sec. 501(c)3 corporation, and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) as a private grantee. All major policy determinations governing RFE/RL operations are made by RFE/RL's Board of Directors. RFE/RL's editorial independence is protected by U.S. law.
With bandaged heads and splinted limbs, the wounded soldiers are stretchered into the waiting medica...
While it’s not the first time the U.S. and Iran have traded airstrikes in Syria, the attack and the ...
"The Gift" tells the story of the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor after the Vietnam War. ...
The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said that a statement from China's Southern Theatre Command that it had fo...
For the first time, a team of (mostly) US veterans and active-duty service members will run in The S...
The British defense ministry on Monday confirmed it would provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.
“Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a Telegr...
Today, we combine the best of both worlds with this indulgent recipe, smashing together our love of coffee and ice cream with a cold brew coffee soda float!