Afghan government reconsiders prisoner swap with Taliban
Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesperson
for Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, in a tweet late Saturday, November 16, said
the Afghan government would reconsider prisoner swap with the Taliban. The tweet
came while last week President Ghani, in a nationally televised speech,
announced that the Afghan government had agreed to release Anas Haqanni,
including two other high profile Taliban prisoners, in exchange with release of
two foreign captives.
According to Ghani, the three
high profile members of Haqqani Network (HN), a brutal faction of the Taliban,
Anas Haqqani, Hafiz Abdul Rashid, and Haji Mali Khan were to be freed in
exchange for release of two professors of the American University of
Afghanistan (AUAF), American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks. The two
teachers were kidnapped outside the AUAF compound by the Taliban in August
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson
for the Taliban, told The Washington Post on Friday, November 15, that the
three Taliban prisoners did not show up at mutually agreed exchange spot,
somewhere in Afghan soil. He, however, avoided to give more details for the
Citing the Taliban sources, the
Reuters reported that the two western hostages were shifted to ‘a new and safe
place’ after the three Taliban commanders failed to land in Doha, capital of
Qatar— the deal was to free the two professors after the Taliban prisoners’
safe landing in Qatar, according to a source in the militant group.
But Mr. Sediqqi says,
“Taliban’s failure to observe the agreed terms have caused postponement of the
On the other hand, John R. Bass, US Ambassador to Afghanistan, extended support for Ghani’s announcement on release of three Taliban prisoners. US Ambassador described the move as a way to promote peace.
Ghani, while delivering his
televised message, assured the Afghan people that the Afghan government and its
international partners had already created mechanisms about the release of the
Taliban prisoners. He noted that the exchange of prisoners would not encourage
the group to intensify fighting against the government.
On Wednesday, a day after Ghani
confirmed prisoner swap, a Taliban car bomb killed 12 and wounded 20 others,
including some foreign nationals, in PD15 of Kabul city.
Some unconfirmed reports suggest one of the two foreign hostages has died under Taliban custody. Though the Taliban have not said anything about health condition of the captives, President Ghani earlier last week highlighted that the foreign captives were not in good health.
Nazar Mohammad Motmaeen, a
pro-Taliban political analyst, talking at a press conference today, November 17,
said that prisoner swap failed after the Americans stepped back of the deal
they had made with the Taliban in Qatar. He underlined the Americans were pressing
on negotiations over exchange of prisoners. The Americans insisted upon direct
talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government but the Taliban refused to
open direct talks with the Kabul government. Motameen claimed the American
negotiators had agreed on prisoner swap without any preconditions.
“This is the second time that
the Americans are leaving the negotiating table. Once on September 08 that
[President] Donald Trump escaped the agreement achieved after five months. And
this time, they (the Americans) escaped the agreement again,” he asserted.