Afghan government releases another 100 Taliban prisoners after collapse of talks

A day after releasing 100 Taliban prisoners, the Afghan government on Thursday said it would free another 100 – even though the insurgents have walked out of talks over a wider prisoner swap and described the piecemeal release of captives as “unacceptable,” according to reports.

Kabul on Wednesday sprung 100 low-risk Taliban prisoners as the first step in a peace process with the hardline extremists, as differences over the release question have complicated US-brokered attempts to end more than 18 years of hostilities in the country, Reuters reported.

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan released 100 Taliban prisoners today based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence, as part of our efforts for peace,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council.

Officials said the same number of insurgents with similar profiles would be released Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse.

The releases come as President Ashraf Ghani faces a lingering political crisis, American fury over a floundering peace process and a growing coronavirus epidemic in Afghanistan.

Kabul “will release 100 Taliban prisoners today based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence as part of our efforts for peace and containment of COVID-19,” Faisal said on Twitter.

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP that the step was inadequate.

A small Taliban delegation came to Kabul last week to discuss a comprehensive prisoner swap that was initially supposed to see 5,000 Taliban released in return for 1,000 Afghan security forces.

Newly freed Taliban prisoners greet each other at Bagram prison, north of Kabul, AfghanistanAfghanistan

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