Kabul releases nearly 200 Taliban prisoners ahead of peace talks
The Afghan government has despatched a “technical team” to Qatar to prepare for long-delayed peace talks as authorities pressed ahead with the release of Taliban inmates, officials said Wednesday.
Kabul broke an impasse with the insurgent group on Monday by resuming a protracted prisoner exchange, a key hurdle in the two warring sides launching negotiations in Doha.
“The process of releasing the Taliban prisoners will continue today too,” a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, the body leading the peace process, confirmed the ongoing release.
“All obstacles have been removed,” said spokesman Firdon Khawzon. “The prisoners’ exchange will be completed soon.”
Kabul had baulked at the release of the final 400 Taliban inmates who President Ashraf Ghani said were “a danger to the world”.
Their release was also opposed by Paris and Canberra because those on the list included militants tied to the killing of French and Australian civilians and troops in Afghanistan.
It is not known if those militants have been released.
The Taliban have said they are willing to begin peace talks “within a week” of the prisoner exchange being completed and blamed Kabul for delaying the negotiations so far.
Kabul has released some 200 Taliban inmates since Monday.
A “small technical team” has been sent for Doha to prepare for starting the peace talks, Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs told AFP.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning
“They are there for logistical preparations,” she said.
Anwari said that Kabul’s team of negotiators will also leave for Doha “very soon”.
US President Donald Trump has made ending America’s longest war a priority for his government.