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Afghan Government, Taliban Team Discuss Prisoner Swap In Kabul

FILE: Taliban prisoners pray inside the Pul-e-Charkhi jail in Kabul in December 2019.
FILE: Taliban prisoners pray inside the Pul-e-Charkhi jail in Kabul in December 2019.

KABUL -- Afghan government representatives have met with a three-member Taliban team in Kabul to discuss a prisoner swap as part of a peace deal signed by the Taliban and the United States in late February.

It is the first time an official Taliban delegation has been in the Afghan capital since the group was driven from power by U.S.-led forces in November 2001.

The two sides held "face-to-face" talks on March 31 and will meet again on April 1 for further discussions being observed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Afghan National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal tweeted.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the delegation was holding technical talks with government officials related to the prisoner release and the provision for medical checkup for those being freed.

Mujahid said that 100 captured Taliban fighters "will be released in [the] first batch."

"Then both sides will assess whether releasing 100 per day is working out well or not," he added.

Afghan officials and Taliban representatives had spoken previously in video conferences to discuss the planned prisoner exchange, which is part of the deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in Doha on February 29.

It calls for the Afghan government to release 5,000 detained Taliban fighters as a confidence-building measure ahead of formal peace talks.

The Taliban has vowed to release 1,000 Afghan government troops and civilian workers it is holding.

Under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Taliban representatives also agreed to commit to direct talks with the Afghan government aimed at ending the country's 18-year conflict.

In return for the start of talks and a series of security commitments from the Taliban, all U.S. troops and other foreign coalition forces are meant to withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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