Afghanistan to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as “goodwill” gesture as peace talks begin

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Hours after the United States said that its forces had started pulling out of two bases in Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday that his government has decided to gradually release around 5,000 Taliban prisoners provided there was a marked reduction in violence by the insurgent group.

The US pullout from Afghanistan is in line with a deal signed between Washington and Taliban in Doha last month.

Kabul has announced that the first batch of 1,500 prisoners will be released on Saturday as a goodwill gesture. The remaining 3500 will be released at the conclusion of the peace talks, provided violence across Afghanistan ceases.

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The Intra-Taliban talks and those between the Afghan government and the militant group will begin from March 14.

However, observers have severely criticized the deal as well as the decision of the government to release these prisoners.

They believe that the Taliban as a terrorist organization with several of its leaders who have been inducted into the UN Sanctions list (Resolution 1267) cannot be trusted. On Monday, even as President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in for the second time, there were explosions around the venue.

India has had reservations over the US-Taliban peace deal from the beginning and has expressed concern against any deal with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

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