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U.S. agog as Kabul-Taliban prisoner swap unfolds

AT News
KABUL: The US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad has welcomed the start of prisoners swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban, saying that the prisoners release is a vitally important step towards reduction of violence and to the Afghan peace process.
Khalilzad urged the Afghan government and Taliban to accelerate efforts fulfill the certain targets agreed in the US-Taliban February peace deal. “The potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons poses a real threat and all the more reason to move urgently,” Khalilzad wrote on his twitter on Monday.
The Taliban on Sunday announced the release of 20 Afghan security forces that had been held in their custody, following the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government, despite the technical negotiations over the prisoners swap between the two sides were collapsed, as the insurgents insisted on release of their 15 notorious commanders, which denied by government.
The prisoners were handed over to the Red-Cross-Committee in southern Kandahar province, said the Taliban Qatar-Based Political Office Spokesman, Suhail Shaheen.
Spokesman for the National Security Office, Javid Faisal said that at least 361 Taliban prisoners have been released throughout a decree signed by President Ashraf Ghani. The released would be continuing, he said. “1, 500 Taliban prisoners will be released as part of the peace efforts and combat of coronavirus.”
Last week, the technical negotiation between Afghan government and Taliban were seemed to be collapsed after the Taliban has pulled out their negotiation team from talks with the government. The group’s spokesman said that the prisoner swap was being delayed due to several excuses.
The US and Taliban in February’s peace deal, agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for 1,000 Afghan security forces. The Afghan government opposed to release the insurgents before any-direct peace talks with the Taliban but after weeks of pressure, the President Ashraf Ghani signed a decree which allowed the gradual release of militants’ prisoners.
Based on US-Taliban peace agreement, the prisoners swap is going to follow by intra-Afghan-talks, where the two sides would be discussing the power sharing and the next stage of the talks.

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