Taliban prisoners set free paving way to peace talks

taliban prisoners set free paving way to peace talks
The Taliban prisoners after President Ashraf Ghani on 31 July ordered their release. Source: WAKIL KOHSAR
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Daily US Times: The government of Afghanistan has started releasing the last 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for long-delayed peace talks with the organization.

Officials said eighty prisoners were set free Thursday, some whose crimes include attacks on Afghans and foreigners.

The release was a condition to begin peace negotiations to end 19 years of conflict in the country and peace talks are expected to start in Qatar within days of the full release.

Afghanistan’s Office of the National Security Council said in a Tweet that the release was “to speed up efforts for direct talks and a lasting, nationwide ceasefire”.

ASfghan authorities initially refused to free the militants but on the weekend, an Afghan grand assembly of elders approved the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners accused of “major” crimes.

The prisoners include some 44 insurgents who are of particular concern to the United States and other countries for their roles in high-profile attacks.

On Thursday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned that their release was a “danger” to the world, reported AFP.

Mr Ghani said: “Until this issue, there was a consensus on the desirability of peace but not on the cost of it.”

The Taliban were in power in Afghanistan but they were stripped from power by a US-led invasion in 2001.

It has gradually regained its strength to control more territory than at any point since that time.

Earlier this year, the Taliban and the US agreed on a peace deal to end the 19-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.

The deal was meant to pave the way for talks between Taliban and the Afghan government, which had previously only agreed to talk to the US.

Negotiations for the US and Taliban had agreed that 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released before they entered talks with the Afghan government.

According to AFP, thousands were freed – however, 400 remained in prison. About 150 of them are on death row.

The move comes as the United States announced its troop level in the country would drop below 5,000 by November.

The deal is a political win for Mr Trump as he can now show that he has brought troops home and started process to end the long lasting Afghan war ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Some consider the deal could worsen the situation for women in Afghanistan.

Activist Zahra Husseini expressed her concern, “I don’t trust the Taliban, and remember how they suppressed women when they were ruling.”

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