Daily Dispatch

Afghan grand assembly gathers to decide Taliban prisoners’ fate

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Thousands of Afghan elders, community leaders and politician­s gathered on Friday to debate government efforts to make peace with the Taliban, in particular the fate of 400 hard-core Taliban prisoners whose release could clear the way for talks.

About 3,200 people have been invited to the grand assembly, known as a Loya Jirga, in Kabul amid tight security to debate for at least three days and then advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.

As part of a February pact between the US and the Taliban allowing for the withdrawal of American troops, it was agreed that about 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released from Afghan jails as a condition for talks between the militants and the US-backed government. The government has released all but about 400 militants it says have been convicted of the worst crimes including killings, drug traffickin­g and kidnapping.

While many Afghans see the peace effort as the best hope for ending the 19-year war with the Taliban, some are concerned about the militants’ commitment to reconcilia­tion, especially after the US completes its troop withdrawal.

US special envoy for Afghanista­n, Zalmay Khalilzad, the architect of the deal allowing the US to withdraw its forces and end its longest-ever war, warned against the Loya Jirga throwing up any complicati­ons.

Afghanista­n’s constituti­on recognises the Loya Jirga as “the highest manifestat­ion of the will of the people of Afghanista­n”.

 ?? Picture: REUTERS / MOHAMMAD ISMAIL ?? THE EYES HAVE IT: An Afghan man walks past a mural of Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy for peace in Afghanista­n, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader, in Kabul, Afghanista­n.
Picture: REUTERS / MOHAMMAD ISMAIL THE EYES HAVE IT: An Afghan man walks past a mural of Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy for peace in Afghanista­n, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader, in Kabul, Afghanista­n.

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