Taliban frees 53 security force members held captive in Kandahar

The Taliban has released 53 members of the Afghan Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) that were being held captive by the group in southern Kandahar province.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the move in a tweet late Friday night.

A list of released hostages seen by Ariana News shows that this group of captives had been captured in Arghandab, Spin Boldak, Maroof, Arghistan, Panjwai, Shah Walikot, and Maiwand districts in recent months.

Heavy fighting has been ongoing in these districts in Kandahar since late last year and has displaced thousands of families.

The government has not yet however commented on the release of the security force members.

This comes just days after Afghan security forces freed over 30 prisoners from Taliban captivity in Herat province.

“Eleven army soldiers, seven policemen, three Afghan Air Force personnel, seven civilian workers of development projects, seven government employees, and a member of the public uprising force are released from prison,” the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

The MoD also shared pictures of the prisoners who were said to have been held in an improvised Taliban prison in the Adraskan district of Herat.

The release of prisoners, held by both parties to the conflict, has become a contentious issue in the past two months.

According to the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February last year, both the Afghan government and the Taliban had to free prisoners.

The Afghan government released the last batch of 5,500 Taliban prisoners six months ago in accordance with the agreement.

The Taliban at the time also released over 1,000 prisoners.

However, in ongoing peace talks in Doha, the Taliban has repeatedly called for a further 7,000 Taliban prisoners to be freed but government has refused to do so.

In an interview last month, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the Taliban had breached their commitments under the deal, pointing to an increase in violence and to intelligence showing they had not severed their ties to al-Qaeda.

He also said that Taliban prisoners freed by the Afghan government as part of the US-brokered deal had in fact resumed fighting instead of going back to their homes.