KABUL – Afghanistan released 100 Taliban prisoners Wednesday, claiming they were among 5,000 detainees to be freed under a deal between insurgents and the U.S. The Taliban said, however, they have yet to verify those released were on the list they handed over to Washington during negotiations.
The prisoner release is a critical first step to intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at bringing an end to decades of war in Afghanistan. The U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February also calls for the Taliban to free 1,000 government personnel they hold hostage.
Jawed Faisal, spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security adviser, said the 100 were released from the base in Bagram, near Kabul, on Wednesday.
Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen in a message to The Associated Press said the insurgent group doesn't know who the government is releasing without verification. He said the Taliban withdrew a technical team to oversee the releases because of delays by the government. In a tweet, Shaheen admonished the government for refusing to release the first 15 Taliban they requested who were on the list.
“They should be released based on our list,” Shaheen told AP. The list of Taliban and government personnel to be released were part of the negotiations that led to the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal.
Meanwhile, in recent days Washington has expressed its frustration with the political turmoil in Kabul as President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in last year’s presidential polls squabble over power sharing amid allegations of election fraud.
Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs tweeted a harsh statement expressing frustration at the continued political turmoil roiling in Kabul.
The State Department tweeted: “As the world gets slammed by COVID-19, with devastating economic consequences for all, donors are frustrated and fed up by personal agendas being advanced ahead of the welfare of the Afghan people.”