Canada

Afghanistan to release 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban to start peace talks

With the release, the Afghan government will fulfill its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

Talks between the warring Taliban and government will start in Doha this week, Western diplomats said. Ghani appealed to the hardline Islamist group to pledge to a complete ceasefire ahead of talks.

Deliberation over the release of last batch of Taliban prisoners, accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks across Afghanistan, had triggered outrage among civilians and rights groups who questioned the morality of the peace process.

In 2019 alone, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in the conflict in Afghanistan, putting total casualties in the past decade over 100,000, a United Nations report said last year.

Ahead of the Loya Jirga, Human Rights Watch cautioned that many of the prisoners had been jailed under “overly broad terrorism laws that provide for indefinite preventive detention.”

Ahead of November U.S. elections, Trump is determined to fulfill a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.

The drawdown will bring the number of U.S. troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

In a February pact allowing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Washington and the Taliban agreed on the release of the Taliban prisoners as a condition for the talks with Kabul. (Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Hameed Farzad in Kabul; Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Writing by Gibran Peshimam and Rupam Jain; Editing by William Mallard)

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