American Kevin King, left, and Australian Timothy Weeks, right

Will prisoner swap spur Taliban to talk with Afghan gov’t?

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, the two English professor of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), were released after spending three years in Taliban’s confinement. Kevin and Timothy were freed in swap for release of high profile Taliban prisoners including Anas Haqqani.

Anas Haqqani, who is brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban, has been behind high profile attacks on Afghan security forces and civilians in Afghanistan. In 2014, Anas was reportedly arrested somewhere in Bahrain. Later he was handed over to the Afghan government. A local court in Kabul sentenced him to death.

Peace talks and prisoner swap

The US and the Taliban agreed on prisoner swap as peace talks between the two parties progressed. The Afghan government recently showed signs of disapproval against release of Taliban high profile prisoners including Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, saying the release of Anas Haqqani was a ‘red line’ for the government.

But it finally broke the very red line. President Ashraf Ghani, in a televised speech, said that Anas Haqqani would be released in a bid to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. He assured the nation that the release would not encourage the group to intensify attacks, something that is a matter of time given that the Taliban insurgents have repeatedly broken promises.

Where are the AUAF professors?

The two AUAF professors, who were ambushed by Taliban while leaving university campus in western Kabul in August 2016, are now in care of the US military. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, in a tweet on Tuesday, November 19, said: “the United States welcomes the release of Kevin King and Timothy Weeks. Both men were successfully recovered this morning, are in the care of the U.S. military, and will soon be reunited with their loved ones.”

People are protesting against release of Anas Haqqani in Kabul

Afghans’ reaction

Many Afghans in the capital are taunting the Afghan government for having broken its red line. They say Mr. Ghani, under pressure by the US, played his last card, hoping to bring the Taliban to a face-to-face talks with the Afghan government, something the Taliban have refused.   

Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, who have been behind deadly attacks in the heart of the capital, are notorious killers who have, directly or indirectly, taken lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians, leaving many Afghan children orphan and thousands others with disability.

However, some Afghan politicians and United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have welcomed the release of the two academics, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.  

It is a matter of time whether this prisoner swap reduces violence or no. If things go as agreed there is a small chance to reduce violence but things may move out of hand if the Taliban refuse to fulfill commitment.    

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