Afghanistan resumes Taliban prisoner release

Afghanistan has resumed the controversial release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners.

A Taliban official told the AFP news agency that 200 prisoners had been freed by the Afghan authorities since Monday, while the Taliban reportedly released four Afghan commandos.

The release of Taliban inmates has been a pre-condition to negotiations to end 19 years of conflict in the country.

Peace talks are expected to start in Qatar within days of the full release.

An unnamed senior Afghan official told AFP that “dozens” of prisoners had been released on Monday, with the remaining prisoners due to follow suit “within a couple of days”.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised the resumption of the prisoner release, which he described as a “positive step towards peace in Afghanistan”.

The release of 5,000 militants formed part of a peace deal reached by the US and the Taliban in February, which was meant to pave the way for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In August, the Afghan government began to free the final 400 Taliban prisoners, after the move was approved by an Afghan grand assembly of elders.

But not all of the group was released, with both France and Australia objecting to the release of prisoners accused of fatal attacks against their nationals, including humanitarian workers.

According to a report by the Washington Post last week, three Afghans accused of involvement in the deaths of US troops are among the final group.

The Taliban were removed from power in Afghanistan by a US-led invasion in 2001, but now control more territory than at any point since that time.