Afghanistan Says 600 Freed Taliban Prisoners Already Rearrested

Afghan security forces escort suspected Islamic State and Taliban fighters at police headquarters in Jalalabad. The alleged torture or mistreatment of prisoners being one of the possible war crimes the ICC wants to investigate.
AFP/Noorullah Shirzada

Afghan authorities have rearrested 600 Taliban members recently freed from prison as part of a U.S.-brokered peace deal between the terror group and the Afghan government, Afghanistan’s national security advisor revealed on Sunday.

“We have rearrested 600 of the freed individuals because they were fighting alongside the Taliban despite pledges that they would not rejoin the battlefield,” Afghan national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib told reporters on January 24.

Afghanistan’s government released over 5,000 Taliban prisoners last year as part of a February 2020 peace agreement. The Taliban in return freed 1,000 Afghan government security personnel.

The prisoner swap was designed as a trust-building exercise ahead of the peace negotiation’s official launch in Doha, Qatar, in September 2020. The talks are technically ongoing but have stalled repeatedly and made little significant process in resolving the power struggle between the Taliban and the internationally-recognized Afghan government. The terror group refuses to accept the Afghan government’s rule over Afghanistan as legitimate and has continued to attack government forces throughout the months-long peace process.

“We see that none of the conditions that the Taliban agreed to in the U.S.-Taliban agreement have been fulfilled. We want those conditions to be implemented,” Mohib said on Sunday when announcing the mass rearrest of Taliban militants.

Intelligence information suggests that “other freed Taliban prisoners were also involved in making car bombs and directing deadly attacks at Afghan security forces as well as civilians,” in recent months, Mohib added.

A spokesman for the Taliban named Zabihullah Mujahid rejected Mohib’s allegations, denying that 600 Taliban members had been rearrested by Afghan authorities.

Mujahid told VOA on January 24 that Afghan security forces have allegedly “killed or rearrested up to 40” freed Taliban members “during raids on their homes or on hospitals where they were undergoing medical treatment after being released from jails.”

The Taliban has previously accused the U.S. of violating the terms of the Afghan peace deal it helped broker. Taliban spokesman Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi alleged in October that the U.S. military had carried out excessive airstrikes in regions of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban. The act would violate a clause of the agreement prohibiting U.S. forces from launching airstrikes in areas other than combat zones.

The Afghan government has repeatedly accused Taliban members freed in the prison swap of returning to fight against state security forces. At least 22 Taliban jihadists were killed in a July 7 clash with Afghan government forces along the Kabul-Jalalabad highway in Laghman province. Most of the Taliban fighters who died in the altercation had been recently released as part of the ongoing peace process, the head of the Afghan Senate, Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, said in a parliamentary address on July 8.

The head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, revealed on September 22 that some Taliban prisoners freed during the peace process had already returned to fighting in the country, just two weeks after the launch of peace talks in Doha on September 12.

“I do know that some have returned to the battlefield, which is a violation of the agreement that they had made,” Abdullah said in an online conference with the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

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