Report: Afghanistan Transfers Six 'Hardcore' Taliban Prisoners to Qatar
Afghanistan transferred six “hardcore” Taliban prisoners to Doha, Qatar, on Thursday ahead of intra-Afghan peace talks in the city this weekend, Afghanistan’s Khaama Pressreported on Friday.
The prisoners boarded a flight from Kabul to Doha on Thursday evening, two government sources told Reuters. The half dozen prisoners “are considered ‘high risk’ after masterminding some of the worst attacks in Afghanistan, killing foreign nationals and known drug kingpins,” Afghanistan’s Ariana News reported.
France’s foreign ministry on Thursday objected to the release of two of the Taliban prisoners, who had been found guilty of killing two French citizens.
“France reiterates its firmest opposition to the release of individuals convicted of having committed crimes against French nationals, in particular soldiers and humanitarian workers,” the ministry said in a statement.
The U.S. agreed to a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in February. The agreement stipulated that the Taliban and the Afghan government would engage in peace talks following a mutual prisoner swap to build confidence between the two sides. The Taliban considers itself the true ruler of Afghanistan and refuses to acknowledge the Afghan government’s rule as legitimate.
The troop withdrawal pact states that “up to” 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan government prisoners should be released before peace talks begin. The Taliban has insisted that it select the 5,000 Taliban prisoners to be released, including the “six objected to by Western governments such as France and Australia for insider attacks on their forces,” according to Reuters. These six were the “hardcore” prisoners who flew to Doha on Thursday.
Afghan President “Ashraf Ghani has until now hesitated to release these prisoners” due to their “high risk” status, Ariana News writes.
“[T]he delay in releasing these prisoners has been a stumbling block in the way of starting [long-stalled] peace talks” between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which are finally scheduled to begin this Saturday in Doha, the news agency noted.
A negotiating team representing the Afghan government was scheduled to fly to Doha on Friday for the peace talks, an Afghan Presidential Palace statement said. The six Taliban prisoners will be “kept under supervision in Qatar’s capital” during the U.S.-brokered peace talks.
“The six will remain in Qatar until the end of November and could be transferred back to Kabul,” an Afghan government source told Reuters.