Pakistan released two Afghan Taliban terrorists from jail on Monday amid intensified U.S. efforts to convince the jihadi group to negotiate an end to the war with Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 17 years.
The release came during the ongoing visits that Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy on Afghan Reconciliation, had in the region and his meetings with Taliban representatives in Doha.
On November 9, Pakistan participated in the Moscow-hosted talks to end the Afghan war, an event that attracted delegates from a body appointed by the U.S. backed government in Kabul and the Taliban, as well as officials from several nations, including the United States.
Sher Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Qatar-based Taliban office, in his speech at the Moscow event, reportedly demanded the release of Taliban detainees.
“Stanekzai had claimed that the US and Kabul administration have detained thousands of the Taliban in their ‘secret and open prisons and are ill-treating them in violation of all the laws,’” Pakistan’s Daily Times reported.
Although the Taliban is also holding prisoner “hundreds of Afghan security men and some foreigners,” the terrorist group has “not hinted at any deal on their release so far,” Daily Times acknowledged.
On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) reported:
Abdul Samad Sani, a U.S.-designated terrorist who served as the Afghan Central Bank governor during the militants’ rule in the late 1990s, and a lower-ranking commander named Salahuddin, were released [by Pakistan] Monday, according to two Taliban officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media. There was no immediate comment from the Pakistani government.
Sani’s release further reconstitutes the Taliban leadership. Sani was placed on the U.S. terrorist list in January, accused of supplying the Taliban with weapons as well as being a major financier traveling to the Gulf to obtain both money and supplies for the insurgent movement.
The release comes days after Pakistan released Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s founders.
Pakistan freed Baradar at the behest of the U.S. government to “move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal reportedly said on November 8.
“The decision was taken following the [first] visit of US Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Khalilzad to the region and his meetings with Taliban representatives in Doha,” he added.
U.S President Donald Trump’s administration has suspended aid to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s refusal to stop serving as a safe haven for the Afghan Taliban and its Haqqani Network allies, which the Pentagon believes pose a significant threat to American troops in Afghanistan.
Marking his second visit to the region, Khalilzad arrived in South Asia last Thursday and is expected to return to the U.S. on November 20 after visiting Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
“Sources say the US envoy is likely to arrive in Islamabad at the end of this week. However, no dates have been decided yet,” the Daily Times pointed out.
In recent months, the United States has intensified its efforts to bring the Taliban to the peace negotiation table.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has made reconciliation between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul the primary goal of its strategy to end to the war.