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Taliban delegation touches down in Kabul as prisoner release nears

AT News

KABUL: In a major breakthrough, the Taliban will send a delegation to Afghanistan to facilitate the thorny prisoners swap as part of the peace deal with the United States.

A 15-member delegation will arrive in Kabul on Saturday 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. Zabihullah Mujahid said on Friday that the team will be brought to Kabul by the ICRC.

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.

Spokesman to the National Security Council Jawed Faisal said that a Taliban delegation will meet with the government face-to-face in Afghanistan in the coming days to carry out further discussions.

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.

The fragile Afghan peace process faced deadlocks as differences persisted between Kabul and the Taliban over a proposed exchange of prisoners. There are 12,000-15,000 inmates, including foreigners from Pakistan, Central Asia and Gulf countries, in different prisons across Afghanistan.

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.

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