Two American University of Afghanistan professors kidnapped by the Taliban three years after they were kidnapped at gunpoint may finally go free. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday that American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks would be freed in exchange for the release of three Taliban commanders, including the younger brother of the leader of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network. Ghani said the "difficult, but necessary decision," was made "in order to pave the way for a face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban," per NBC News and Reuters. In a live TV address, Ghani added the release of the professors had been an unconditional demand, owing in part to their deteriorating health.
King, 63, of Pennsylvania and Weeks, 50, of New South Wales, were almost rescued in the days after their capture, but Navy SEALs arrived at a hideout hours after the pair had been moved, per the Guardian. They looked gaunt and pale in a video shared in January 2017, months before the Taliban announced King was suffering from a "dangerous" heart and kidney disease. The Taliban said Tuesday that three members captured in 2014—Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan, and Hafiz Rashid—were flown to Qatar following their release from Bagram prison. It isn't clear if King and Weeks have been released. In a statement, the American University of Afghanistan said it's "encouraged to hear reports of the possible release," but isn't involved in any negotiations. (Read more Taliban stories.)