Afghans set to release 1,500 Taleban; US wants less violence

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) — After a series of delays, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree early yesterday promising to release 1,500 Taleban prisoners as a goodwill gesture to get intra-Afghan negotiations started.

A recent peace deal signed between the United States (US) and the Taleban called for the release of up to 5,000 prisoners ahead of the much sought-after negotiations.

There was no official response from the Taleban, but The Associated Press saw a letter that Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, the head of the Taleban’s Prisoners Commission, sent to the prisoners, their families and Taleban leaders promising there would be no intra-Afghan talks until all the prisoners are released.

The Pashto-language letter was sent last weekend. It said the Taleban would verify that each prisoner released is among those on the list given to an American delegation.

However, the presidential decree went on to say the first round of 1,500 prisoners will be selected based on age, health and the length of their sentences already served. The released prisoners, who will be biometrically identified, will also have to give a written guarantee that they will not return to the battlefield.