Traditional council frees Taliban setting up peace talks

Kabul: A traditional Afghan council concluded Sunday with hundreds of delegates agreeing to free 400 Taliban members, paving the way for an early start to negotiations between Afghanistan’s warring sides.
The declaration read out in both of Afghanistan’s official languages of Pashto and Farsi calls for an immediate start to negotiations as well as an immediate cease fire. The Taliban have said they were ready for talks immediately after their final prisoners were released and that a ceasefire would be one of the first items of negotiations.
The move looks to bring the United States a little closer to bringing its troops home and end its longest military engagement.
The decision to free the prisoners does not come as a surprise as delegates were urged by the US at the start of the council, or jirga, on Friday to take this difficult action so negotiations could begin to bring an end to the war.
No date has been set but negotiations between Kabul’s political leadership and the Taliban are expected to begin as early as next week and will most likely be held in the middle eastern state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintains a political office.
The Afghan negotiations were laid out in a peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in February. At the time of its signing it was touted as Afghanistan’s best chance at ending decades of war.
But the deal called for the government to free 5,000 prisoners and for the Taliban to free 1,000 government and military personnel in its custody as a goodwill gesture ahead of the start of negotiations. (AP)

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