President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said his decision to free three Haqqani Network prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid Omari in return for two professors was part of efforts to engage in direct talks with the Taliban and end the country’s decades-old conflict.
American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were in a critical condition, he added. Both were abducted outside the American University of Afghanistan, in Kabul, where they were lecturers.
Ghani described his decision to release the three Taliban prisoners as “hard but necessary,” and said he hoped the move would deter “intensified attacks.”
One of the three Taliban prisoners set to be released is Anas Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani network
Some local media reported that the three Taliban prisoners had already been freed in Kabul and were flying to Qatar.
The Afghan government earlier this week said it would “conditionally release” three militants from the Taliban-linked Haqqani network as part of an apparent exchange for Timothy Weekes, 50, and Kevin King, 63, who were kidnapped by the group in Kabul in 2016.
In this regard, the US Ambassador tweeted, “We supported President Ghani’s announcement to release three Taliban prisoners to promote peace – and the decision to reassess their pending transfer following the attacks in Logar and Kabul on November 12 and 13.”
He wrote, “Making peace means making hard choices, but it also requires careful review of the conditions on the ground. As strategic partners, we will continue to work closely with the #Afghan government on next steps. #Afghanistan #EnduringPartnership.”