Pompeo, Taliban official huddle on Afghan peace process

Pompeo, Taliban official huddle on Afghan peace process
© Greg Nash

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump steps up Iran fight in final election stretch MORE on Monday discussed the Afghan peace process with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund, according to a Taliban spokesman.

The virtual meeting included discussions over Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government, spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted. 

“Both sides talked about the inception of intra-Afghan negotiations” and emphasized that “release of the remaining prisoners are essential for commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Shaheen wrote.

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The State Department declined to comment.  

The meeting came after Afghan security forces ended the siege of a major prison in eastern Afghanistan by Islamic State militants in which hundreds of prisoners escaped, Reuters reported. It was not immediately known if any of the escapees include any of the prisoners the Taliban is demanding be released, according to the newswire. 

Release of the prisoners has been a major challenge in the peace talks, which were set to have started in March, the newswire noted. 

An agreement between the U.S. and Taliban earlier this year for U.S. troop withdrawal called for Afghanistan to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for the release by the insurgents of up to 1,000 government detainees, Reuters noted. 

The Taliban has released around 1,000 detainees, and under U.S. pressure the Afghan government has freed around 4,600 Taliban prisoners named on a list compiled by the insurgents, the newswire reported.