Afghan government, Taliban prepare for prisoner swap
Iran Press TV
Thursday, 02 April 2020 1:45 PM
Afghanistan is set to release from prison 100 Taliban militants in a prisoner exchange for 20 of its security forces personnel, the government and Taliban sources say.
Both sides on Thursday confirmed that the Taliban prisoners were to be released at the Bagram military base north of the capital, Kabul.
An unnamed senior official in the office of President Ashraf Ghani said the names of those to be released had been sent to prison authorities.
"It was decided in the morning that 100 Taliban should be released in exchange for 20 members of Afghan security forces today," media outlets quoted the official as saying.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said teams from the warring sides were working out technical details and logistics for receiving prisoners.
"The technical issues require some time," said Mujahid, adding, "I think the release of 100 Taliban fighters and 20 Afghan security force members will happen either tomorrow or the day after."
On Tuesday, a Taliban team arrived in Kabul to begin the prisoner exchange process and met Afghan officials for face-to-face negotiations.
The Office of Afghanistan's National Security Council said on Twitter on Wednesday that the talks were observed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The US reached an agreement with the militant group in February, but Kabul was not a party to the negotiations that led to that deal. The Taliban would refuse at the time to recognize the Afghan government.
The agreement between the US and the Taliban called for the completion of an exchange of prisoners before the start of dialog between the Taliban and the Kabul government on March 10.
The swap was delayed amid a power struggle between Ghani and his main rival in Afghanistan's 2019 presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, who disputed the results of the voting.
Under the agreement involving the US, the Afghan government was required to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and the militant group to free 1,000 government captives.
The talks on the prisoner exchange come despite a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.
Taliban militants, which control more than 40% of the Afghan territory, have since the signing of the deal been attacking Afghan military positions.
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and overthrew a Taliban regime in power at the time. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Trump.
The Taliban, meanwhile, have never stopped their attacks, citing foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of eliminating the Taliban militant group.
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