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US envoy urges Afghanistan & Taliban to accelerate prisoner releases

US envoy urges Afghanistan & Taliban to accelerate prisoner releases

The US special envoy who negotiated a deal with the Taliban has said that an initial prisoner exchange between the insurgents and the Afghan government was an “important step” toward peace. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Taliban on Sunday released 20 Afghan security-force prisoners. The move came after the government last week released hundreds of insurgent captives.

“The release of prisoners is an important step in the peace process and the reduction of violence,” US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted on Monday. “Both sides should accelerate efforts to meet targets specified in the US-Taliban agreement as soon as possible.”

He added that the exchange was more important than ever, with prison populations threatened by coronavirus outbreaks, AFP said. Kabul says it has now released 300 ‘low-risk’ Taliban prisoners, who have pledged not to return to the fight.

Khalilzad and the Taliban signed a deal on February 29, paving the way for US and other foreign forces to quit Afghanistan, in return for various commitments from the insurgents.