The government of Afghanistan has freed the remaining 400 Taliban inmates, paving the way for peace talks with the armed group to find a negotiated settlement to the country’s prolonged crisis, spokesman of Office of Afghan National Security Council confirmed on Thursday.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has received our commandos held hostage by Taliban, after which the government released the remaining 400 convicts, except the few for which our partners have reservations,” spokesman Javid Faisal said in a statement.
At least seven out of the 400 prisoners will reportedly remain in custody.
After the latest release of the inmates, several hundred more Taliban members are still serving in Afghanistan’s prison.
“Diplomatic efforts are ongoing. We expect direct talks to start promptly,” Faisal noted.
Since March, the Afghan government had released some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the Taliban had freed 1,000 Afghan soldiers or government staff. But the Afghan government suspended the release of 400 Taliban inmates over their involvement in serious crimes.
On Aug. 10, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani issued a decree to pardon and release the 400 Taliban inmates, one day after the 3,400-member Loya Jirga voted in favor of the release.
Under the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement, U.S. and NATO-led coalition forces would leave Afghanistan by July next year depending on whether the Taliban outfit meets the conditions envisaged in the agreement, including severing ties with foreign terrorist groups.
A 22-member negotiation team of the government has already reached the Gulf state of Qatar to start talks with a Taliban delegation there.