On Tuesday, the Afghan Taliban released American and Australian university professors. They were held hostage for more than three years. Taliban is in the process of completing a delayed prisoner swap resulting in raised hopes for a revival of peace talks, Afghan, US and Australian officials said.
In August 2016, America’s Kevin King and Timothy who is an Australian citizen were kidnapped from outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. Importantly, they both worked as professors there. An Afghan official said that they were freed in return for the release of three Taliban commanders under a swap that had been long delayed,
The US-backed Afghan government’s decision to carry out the swap is looked at as a key to secure direct talks with the Islamist militants. The Islamic Militants, until now, refused to engage with the Government. Moreover, they referred to Afghan government as illegitimate “puppet” regime in Kabul.
In September 2019, talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at ending 18-year war collapsed. The reason behind this is the cancellation of a planned meeting at the US Camp David Presidential retreat by the US President Donald Trump.
Earlier on Tuesday, three Taliban sources familiar with the deal includes one in Qatar and another one is political leader of the Afghan Taliban. Importantly, they confirmed that the three Taliban commanders who were part of the swap were freed from jail in Afghanistan.
Along with this, the United States and Australia also confirmed the release of the professors. This may improve the chances for dialogue between the Afghans and an eventual peace agreement, they said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a written statement, “The Taliban have indicated that the release of the two professors is intended as a goodwill gesture.” Furthermore, “the United States welcomes, saying the men were in the care of the US military.”