KABUL – The Taliban accused the United States on Friday of breaching an agreement that would have seen the government in Kabul releasing three prisoners in a swap deal with the insurgent group to free two foreign nationals, including an American professor, abducted over three years ago.
“The Americans did not deliver on the (promise) made to us,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE.
“Therefore, no development has taken place in the (prisoner swap) process,” Mujahid said, adding that the Americans had failed to release the Taliban prisoners first as was agreed.
“Now it is up to them. What we had promised, we were ready for that. They (the Americans) should have moved our prisoners to (a) specified location first, and then we were ready to release their prisoners,” the spokesman said but didn’t give more details.
On Tuesday, the Afghan government announced that they were ready to conditionally release three prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that has claimed several deadly attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
The other two militant leaders to be released from the Bagram prison are Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid.
In return, the Taliban had promised to release Kevin King, 60, an American, and Timothy Weeks, 48, an Australian, from their captivity. The two professors who taught at the American University of Afghanistan were abducted in August 2016.
Mujahid said the two hostages were still in their captivity.
He refuted the reports that the Taliban prisoners had been relocated from the Bagram prison to Qatar or “somewhere else.”
No Afghan official was available for a comment on the issue.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a televised address earlier this week said the decision to set the Taliban prisoners free was made “in close consultations with our international partners,” particularly the United States, to pave the pave for negotiations with the Taliban.
Ghani said the “conditional release” of the three militants would not strengthen the ranks of the Taliban as “joint precautions” were taken by Afghanistan and the US, indicating that the freed militant commanders won’t return to the battlefield or reinforce the insurgent group.
The president for the first time also disclosed that there were 11,000 Taliban fighters, “involved in various crimes,” currently imprisoned in Afghan jails.
He said the government was ready to review cases of each of these Taliban members, in case a dignified, lasting and nationwide peace in Afghanistan.