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Friday, 22 January 2021

Taliban prisoner swap for U.S., Aussie professors

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Taliban prisoner swap for U.S., Aussie professors
Taliban prisoner swap for U.S., Aussie professors

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he has secured the release of two professors from the American University of Afghanistan in exchange for three captured Taliban.

It's part of a wider effort to revamp negotiations to end the conflict.

Matthew Larotonda reports.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani says his government has secured the release of two university professors, an American and an Australian, held captive by the Taliban.

In exchange, he says, three captured Taliban commanders will be released.

The two professors are Kevin King and Timothy Weeks, both faculty at the American University in Afghanistan - a walled compound in the capital that's been targeted multiple times in the past.

King and Weeks were kidnapped three years ago.

The prisoner swap is part of a wider effort to start direct negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government.

Previously the Taliban have refused to deal with Kabul, who they view as a puppet of the United States.

They'd rather deal with Washington directly or Pakistan.

Taliban bombings, including the death of an American soldier, prompted the U.S. to abruptly end those negotiations in September but the White House has since tried to get talks back on track.

Two of the three Taliban being released are Hafiz Rashid and Anas Haqqani.

Haqqani is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, the most deadly faction inside the Afghan Taliban.

Earlier this year the Taliban said Anas Haqqani would be a member of any negotiating team that dealt with the United States, and demanded his freedom.

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