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U.S. officials meet Taliban hoping to smooth out Afghan prisoner swaps

By
Don Jacobson
Afghan security officials show a group of suspected Taliban militants in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on March 10. File Photo by Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE
Afghan security officials show a group of suspected Taliban militants in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on March 10. File Photo by Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE

April 14 (UPI) -- Senior U.S. officials have met with Taliban leaders in Qatar to discuss delays in completing prisoner swaps that are hindering their February peace deal, the Afghan insurgent group said Tuesday.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said negotiators met in Doha late Monday with U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

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"They talked about complete implementation of the agreement as well as delay in the release of the prisoners," Shaheen said in a tweet. "Violations of the agreement and other issues and ways of their solutions were also discussed."

Earlier, the U.S. State Department confirmed Khalilzad was scheduled to meet with Taliban representatives to discuss "current challenges" in implementing the peace deal that was signed Feb. 29. The U.S. military agreed to remove all forces from Afghanistan as part of the pact, but it also called for intra-Afghan negotiations between the government in Kabul and the Taliban.

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The deal also calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by Kabul and 1,000 prisoners held by the militant group. Both the Afghan government and Taliban have released small groups of prisoners recently as goodwill gestures.

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The Afghan government, after delays caused by internal disagreement, began the process last week by releasing 361 inmates. In response, the Taliban freed 20 prisoners on Sunday in Kandahar province.

Shaheen said the Taliban is willing to continue releasing prisoners even though neither side is doing so in the more coordinated fashion outlined in the peace deal. Efforts for both sides to set up a more synchronized process fell apart last week.

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