1.5K Taliban Prisoners Are About to Go Free

Afghan president making release as goodwill gesture to spur negotiations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 11, 2020 12:15 AM CDT
Afghanistan Set to Release 1.5K Taliban
In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, center, arrives for the inauguration ceremony for Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. After a series of delays,   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

After a series of delays, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree early Wednesday promising to release 1,500 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture to get intra-Afghan negotiations started. A recent peace deal signed between the United States and the Taliban called for the release of up to 5,000 prisoners ahead of the much sought-after negotiations. There was no official response from the Taliban, but the AP saw a letter that Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, the head of the Taliban's Prisoners Commission, sent to the prisoners, their families, and Taliban leaders promising there would be no intra-Afghan talks until all the prisoners are released.

The presidential decree says the first round of 1,500 prisoners will be selected based on age, health, and the length of their sentences already served. The released prisoners, who will be biometrically identified, will also have to give a written guarantee that they will not return to the battlefield. The remaining 3,500 prisoners will be released after intra-Afghan negotiations begin and 500 will be released every two weeks providing the Taliban reduce violence on the battlefield, Ghani's decree said. However, even if the Taliban agree to start negotiations, Kabul's political turmoil and bickering between Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who has also sworn himself in as Afghanistan's president, have left Kabul struggling to come up with a united negotiating team.

(Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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