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Iran Press TV

Afghan government, Taliban exchange prisoners

Iran Press TV

Monday, 13 April 2020 9:51 AM

The Afghan government has released 100 more Taliban prisoners, and the militant group has freed 20 captive security forces, as a shaky peace process between the two sides gains momentum in Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Security Council (NSC) on Sunday posted several photos of freed Taliban prisoners on Twitter, saying they had been released a day earlier.

The health condition, age, and length of the remaining time of their sentences had been the factors considered for their release, according to the NSC.

The Afghan government has freed 300 Taliban militants since Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that the Taliban had on Sunday released 20 captive Afghan security forces in Kandahar in exchange.

The prisoner exchange came despite the fact that the militants walked out of talks with Kabul last week.

In related news, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said on Twitter that the prisoner exchange between the Afghan government and the militants was an "important step" toward peace.

"The release of prisoners is an important step in the peace process and the reduction of violence," he tweeted on Monday.

He urged both sides to continue the process more quickly given the added threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was referring to a February deal between the US and the Taliban that, among other things, called for the prisoner exchange.

The Afghan government, which was excluded from the talks and was thus not a signatory to the accord, is required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The militants are obliged to free 1,000 pro-government captives in return.

Washington is compelled under the deal to pull out American forces and foreign troops from Afghanistan by July next year, provided that the militants start talks with Kabul and adhere to other security guarantees.

About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries remain stationed in Afghanistan years after the invasion of the country that toppled a Taliban regime in 2001.

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