Khalilzad welcomes prisoner exchanges between Afghan govt, Taliban

Kabul, April 13 (IANS) US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has welcomed the prisoner exchange process by both the Afghan government and Taliban as per the agreement the militant group inked with Washington to bring peace in the war-torn country.

“Welcome the release of prisoners by both the Afghan government and the Taliban. The release of prisoners is an important step in the peace process and the reduction of violence,” TOLO News quoted Khalilzad as saying in a tweet on Sunday.

“Both sides should accelerate efforts to meet targets specified in the US-Taliban agreement as soon as possible.

“The potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons poses a real threat and all the more reason to move urgently,” he added.

Khalilzad's remarks came on the same day the Taliban released 20 Afghan security forces.

Also taking to Twitter on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that the 20 soldiers were released in Kandahar province and handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Photos posted on Mujahid's handle showed the soldiers wearing traditional clothes and receiving cash and certificates from the Taliban.

The release was confirmed the head of the ICRC in Afghanistan Juan-Pedro Schaerer, TOLO News reported.

“Today we facilitated the release of 20 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who were detained by the Taliban and transferred them to the Governor's Office in Kandahar,” Schaerer tweeted.

Earlier on Sunday, the Afghan government released 100 Taliban inmates from Bagram prison in Parwan province, bringing the number of Taliban inmates freed since April 8 to 300.

On March 11, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani issued a decree to release 5,000 Taliban inmates on parole.

The exchange process is part of the peace deal inked between the Taliban and the US signed in Qatar capital Doha on February 29, of which the Afghan government was not a signatory.

The Taliban also agreed to launch direct peace talks with the government and accepted to free 1,000 Afghan government security force members.



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