(UPI) — Afghanistan and the Taliban will begin a long-awaited prisoner exchange this week, the Taliban and sources within the government said Wednesday.
About 5,000 members of the anti-government insurgency are in Afghan captivity, and an announcement of the release of up to 100 of them, in exchange for 20 Afghan military personnel, is expected Thursday. Government sources confirmed the plan, and a Taliban statement said that a three-member delegation now in Kabul “will pursue the issue of prisoner release and help in necessary technical steps.”
The delegation arrived Tuesday, the first time insurgency representatives were in the capital since the Taliban was removed from power in 2001 in a military invasion led by the United States. The delegates traveled from Khandahar province before being flown to Kabul by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The prisoner exchange is designed to be the start of peace negotiations and requires the Taliban to free about 1,000 government detainees.
The peace process is outlined in an agreement signed in February between the United States and the Taliban. It commits the United States and allies to a withdrawal of military forces, over 14 months, in exchange for Taliban assurances that terrorists will not use Afghanistan as a safe haven.