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The Afghan government releases 100 Taliban prisoners following collapse of prisoner change

An Afghan official familiar with the development said Wednesday’s release was one-sided and intended as a goodwill gesture. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the release with the media.

The Afghan government is under tremendous pressure from the United States to continue peace talks with the Taliban following the signing of a US-Taliban peace agreement in February. Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have already been delayed for weeks, hardships threatening to trace the fragile US-Taliban peace treaty.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Washington Post: “We have nothing to do with the release of 1

00 prisoners, as it is not according to the agreed mechanism.” He added that the “prisoner change process” remains stalled.

The detainees released on Wednesday were selected from a “broader list” shared by the Taliban delegation with the Afghan government, according to a statement from Afghanistan’s National Security Council. The statement said those released did not include the 15 leading Taliban members whose release the Taliban delegation had requested in the first round of the prisoner exchange.

The statement said that the prisoners released were chosen “based on their state of health, age and length of remaining sentences”, and that all prisoners took an oath to never return to the battlefield.

The U.S.-Taliban peace treaty called for thousands of prisoners to be released as a confidence-building measure before talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Taliban had previously demanded that all its detainees be released at once, but the Afghan government objected to this, citing logistical problems. The two sides later agreed to move on with smaller groups.

When peace talks with the Taliban begin, securing a firearm is expected to be the top priority for the Afghan government. Afghanistan has seen a tap in violence since the US-Taliban peace treaty was signed. Taliban attacks mostly in northern Afghanistan have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters over the past month, according to local officials.

Following the signing of the US Taliban Peace Agreement, the United States ceased all offensive operations against the Taliban but has carried out air strikes in support of Afghan forces. The Taliban recently cited these strikes when they accused the United States of violating the peace treaty. The US military command in Kabul dismissed that charge and promised to continue to defend his ally, the Afghan government.

George reported from London. Haq Nawaz Khan of Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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