US ‘strongly supports’ release of Taliban prisoners: Bass

KABUL (TOLO News): The United States government welcomes and “strongly supports” President Ashraf Ghani’s “courageous decision” to release three Taliban prisoners, the US Ambassador to Kabul, John Bass, told TOLOnews on Tuesday.

President Ghani at a news conference on Tuesday confirmed that Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, three Haqqani Network commanders, have been “conditionally released” in exchange for the release of two Haqqani-held professors who were abducted while working for the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

“We believe this important step reflects the strength of the Islamic republic and of the Afghan Security Forces and their ongoing efforts to protect and defend the Afghan people,’ he said.

About two weeks ago, the National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib confirmed that recent meetings between President Ghani and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation had focused on the release of the two AUAF professors.

“This is the latest in a series of courageous steps that President Ghani and the Afghan government have taken to respond to the Afghan people’s overwhelming desire for peace,” Bass said.

“We hope the Taliban responds to this important humanitarian gesture with its own humanitarian gesture through the release of prisoners they’re holding, particularly Afghan security force prisoners and western prisoners,” Bass said.

“But regardless of how the Taliban responds, the United States will continue to strongly support the Afghan government, the Afghan security forces in defending the people of this country, and supporting the Islamic republic.”

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