President Ashraf Ghani (centre) at a meeting in Kabul. File photo
Afghanistan will release two senior Taliban commanders and a leader of the Haqqani militant group in exchange for an American and an Australian professor who were kidnapped in 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office said on Tuesday.
The government has decided to free top militant commander Anas Haqqani and two other Taliban commanders in a prisoner swap, a deal that could pave the way for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The Taliban had kidnapped the Australian and American professors in August 2016 from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to discuss peace with Ghani, whom they consider a US stooge heading an illegitimate regime.
Their meeting came during a marathon multi-country tour by Khalilzad, who is to visit Qatar — the usual venue for talks with the Taliban.
Ghani said the message of the five-day gathering was clear: “Afghans want peace” and offered a ceasefire, though he stressed it would not be unilateral. In the statement on Friday, the Taliban rejected a ceasefire, saying attacks will continue during Ramadan but said “fighters are very careful of civilians during any operation.”
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