Afghanistan to release 400 ‘hardcore’ Taliban paving the way to ‘peace-talks’
Afghanistan agreed on Sunday to release 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for peace talks aimed at ending a more than 19-year war.
US President Donald Trump has been putting on the pressure for a deal to allow him to bring home US troops leading to the war-torn country’s grand assembly approving the release.
“In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.”
Last week, the president invited some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians to Kabul amid tight security and concerns about the current global health crisis to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.
With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its promise to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Talks between the Taliban and government will start in Doha this week, Western diplomats said. Ghani appealed to the Taliban to pledge a complete ceasefire ahead of talks.
However, civilians and rights groups have questioned the morality of the peace process and the release of the last batch of Taliban prisoners – accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks across Afghanistan – has triggered outrage.
In 2019, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in the conflict in Afghanistan, putting the total casualties in the past decade over 100,000, a UN report said last year.
Human Rights Watch had previously warned that many of the prisoners had been jailed under “overly broad terrorism laws that provide for indefinite preventive detention.”
Ahead of the US election this year, Trump is determined to fulfil a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.
The drawdown will bring the number of US troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
In a February pact allowing for the withdrawal of US troops, Washington and the Taliban agreed on the release of the Taliban prisoners as a condition for the talks with Kabul.
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