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Kabul to welcome Taliban delegates at Bagram

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KABUL: Intelligence officials have said that the Taliban delegates will be received in Bagram airport under auspices of the ICRC, as part of virtual negotiations between the government and the Taliban to facilitate a phased release of militant prisoners.

Government officials and Taliban representatives have been in three video conferences since past week to discuss a mechanism to release Taliban inmates in Afghanistan prisons. But Kabul is looking for guarantees that they will not fight again.

In a statement, the National Security Council said strict measures have been adopted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.

This is as violence has intensified as more than 23 soldiers were killed just on Monday in Taliban attacks as militants are ratcheting up their terror campaign amid Kabul’s refusal to immediately free hundreds of insurgent prisoners.

A 10-member delegation of the Taliban led by Malawi Ziauddin will be arriving in Kabul from Kandahar and a few other provinces, according to a Taliban spokesman, in a bid to meet with officials in Kabul about Taliban inmates in the country’s prisons.

This decision was made during a video conference between the government and the Taliban on Wednesday, said the National Security Council. It said 100 Taliban prisoners will be set free on humanitarian grounds – including health, age and vulnerability to COVID19 – by March 31 after guarantees by Taliban and the prisoners that they will not re-enter the fight.

Zabihullah Mujahid had said on Friday that the team will be brought to Kabul by the ICRC on Saturday. But the delegates will be coming in a later date “because of technical issues”.

The Taliban have demanded the release of 5,000 of their militants in return for the release of 1,000 captives, including Afghan government officials and security personnel. Kabul insists on releasing them in phases along with intra-Afghan talks and a ceasefire in place.

This is as the Afghan government has announced a 21-member committee that would hold direct peace talks with the Taliban. It is said that former intelligence chief Mohammed Masoum Stanekzai will head the committee.

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