Afghan president: 3 Taliban released for held US, Australian

Cheryl Sanders
November 12, 2019

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani confirmed that the government will conditionally release Anas Haqqani from Bagram prison in exchange for the release of two lecturers of the American University of Afghanistan.

"In order to pave the way for face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban, the government has chose to free Taliban prisoners in exchange for two university professors", Mr Ghani said in a televised speech.

Last month, Ghani's National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said the USA envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the release of Haqqani with the Afghan president during his latest trip to Kabul and subsequent meetings with the Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar.

The prisoner exchange comes at a time when efforts were being made to revamp peace talks between the United States and the Taliban.

The Haqqani group predates the Taliban but has become integrated into its structure, and is suspected of having carried out some of the most brutal and indiscriminate attacks over the course of the almost two decades of war that have followed the 2001 US-led invasion. It was not clear when his execution was supposed to take place.

The two men - an American identified as Kevin King and an Australian identified as Timothy Weekes - were abducted from the capital, Kabul, outside the American University in 2016.

Mr Ghani said authorities had been unable to discover where the Taliban were holding the two captives.

In Tuesday's address, Ghani added that the Taliban kidnapping of the two American University teachers was not representative of Islamic and Afghan traditions.

Media captionIs peace with the Taliban possible?

In August 2016, gunmen wearing military uniforms kidnapped the two professors, who later appeared looking haggard in a Taliban hostage video, with the rebels going on to say that one of the hostages was in poor health.

The statement added that while the university was not part of any negotiations with the Taliban or government discussions, it continues "to urge the immediate and safe return of our faculty members who have been held in captivity, away from their friends and families, for more than three years".

Anas Haqqani was captured in 2014 alongside another commander, Hafiz Rashid, who is also set for release.

The two sides were on the verge of a peace deal in September when US President Donald Trump called off the talks after an American soldier was killed in Taliban attack.

Other reports by iNewsToday