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Afghan Government's Move May Wreck US-Taliban Deal

It's postponing the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 14, 2020 8:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Afghan government Saturday postponed the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners, an Afghan official said, a decision that could sabotage a peace deal signed last month between the Taliban and the US. Jawed Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Adviser's office, said the releases were being delayed because more time was needed to review the list of prisoners. The move comes despite President Ashraf Ghani's decree earlier this week promising the start of the releases Saturday as a goodwill gesture to get intra-Afghan negotiations started, per the AP. The US-Taliban deal was touted at the time as the best chance at ending Afghanistan's endless wars and bringing US troops home after nearly 19 years. There was no immediate response from the Taliban to the delayed prisoner release.

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The US-Taliban deal called for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban, as well as 1,000 Afghan government captives, ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, considered a critical next step to reaching a lasting peace in Afghanistan. Ghani's decree promised the release of 100 prisoners a day beginning Saturday until 1,500 prisoners were released. He would then release the remaining 3,500 after intra-Afghan talks began, and those releases would be staggered and proceed only if talks progressed and the Taliban reduced violence. The Taliban said they're committed to the deal they made with the US but wouldn't start negotiations with Kabul's government or other political leaders until the prisoners were freed. The US has said its withdrawal of troops—which has already begun—wasn't dependent on successful negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict.

(Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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