The Afghan government will complete the prisoner exchange process with the intra-Afghan talks to begin soon after, the High Council for National Reconciliation said on Wednesday, a day after they announced that the release of the 320 Taliban prisoners had resumed.
“All obstacles to intra-Afghan talks have been removed. The prisoner exchange process will end soon and talks will begin,” said Faraidoon Khwazoon, spokesperson for the Reconciliation Council.
A Taliban official told AFP that around 200 prisoners had been freed since Monday.
Radio Azadi said on Wednesday, that sources told them the prisoner exchange process will be completed within the day.
Earlier, the Afghan government had said that the prisoner swap would resume only when the Taliban released some 22 Afghan security forces they had detained.
The Taliban official speaking to AFP said they had released four Afghan commandos who had been held captive, with two more who would be freed on Wednesday.
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“Our prisoners have been released and we see this as a positive step that paves the ground for the start of intra-Afghan talks,” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told AFP late on Tuesday.
Khwazoon, too said that the Afghan government’s “negotiating team is fully prepared for the trip to Doha.”
The completion of the prisoner exchange has been a pre-condition to the start of the intra-Afghan talks which would end the decades-long conflict in the country.
The talks are expected to start in Qatar within days of the completion of the swap.
Former president Hamid Karzai had praised the resumption of the prisoner release and called it a “positive step towards peace in Afghanistan.”
Under the terms of the Doha Agreement signed between the U.S. and the Taliban, Kabul was supposed to free 5,000 of the militant group’s fighters while Taliban had to free 1,000 Afghan troops.
Both sides had met the obligations until the government reached the final 400 Taliban inmates, who they called a “danger to the world” and had been accused of moral and criminal offences.
The Peace Consultative Loya Jirga earlier in August had approved the release of the Taliban prisoners.