The Taliban spokesman confirmed that twenty Afghan government prisoners were released on Sunday. It was the first group of a delayed swap considered key to demonstrate intentions for peace negotiations between the two sides, the Afghan Islamic Press reported on Monday.
The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that 20 Afghan soldiers were set free in the Kandahar on April 12. The Taliban press office insists the prisoners were handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Despite the Taliban sent photos of those allegedly released to TOLOnews, the Afghan officials have not immediately commented on the move.
In fact, releasing of 20 government troops followed symmetrical move made by the Afghan National Security Council (NSC). According to its statement, 100 Taliban prisoners were released under the peace deal signed in February. Thus, 300 Taliban inmates were freed since April 8.
The NSC posted several photos of the prisoners on Twitter and said that they had been freed on April 11.
The council said that the health condition, age, and length of the remaining sentences were considered in choosing which prisoners to release.
Afghanistan peace deal: obligations of the sides
In general, a peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar on February 29 calls for the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters as a confidence-building measure ahead of formal peace talks aimed at ending the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.
The militants blamed the administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for delaying the exchange «under one pretext or another,” while Kabul called on the Taliban not to “sabotage the process by making excuses.»
In return for the start of talks between Kabul and the Taliban and a series of security commitments from the militants, all U.S. troops and other foreign coalition forces are meant to withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months.