The Taliban released a set of triumphant propaganda photos Wednesday showing fighters in Afghanistan released from prisons under the U.S.-brokered peace deal with Kabul.
The pictures showed the Taliban killers marching in the open with heavy weapons under the caption “Valiant Mujahideen in Ghazni, Logar, and Laghman.”
Mujahideen means “holy warriors” or jihadis. The three provinces referenced in the caption are areas where the Taliban controls a good deal of territory.
The Long War Journal (LWJ) said Wednesday that it could not independently confirm when or where the photos posted by the Taliban on its “Voice of Jihad” website were taken but noted the Taliban generally does not falsify pictures of its triumphal events.
“In all, more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners have been set free. These freed commanders and fighters are likely to bolster the ranks of the Taliban. Historically, former Taliban prisoners are known to return to the battlefield at high rates,” the LWJ noted.
The Taliban warned the Afghan government on Tuesday not to take any action against the released fighters, claiming there have been at least 11 attacks on freed prisoners by government forces over the past few months and any further harassment might inspire the former detainees to return to the battlefield, despite ostensibly being ordered to “stay at home with their families” by Taliban leadership. Afghan officials denied taking any punitive actions against the released prisoners.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, its parliament, and an assembly of tribal elders known as the Loya Jirga agreed this week to release the last round of 400 Taliban prisoners specified in the peace deal.
The Taliban said it would be willing to begin negotiating an end to the Afghan civil war within a week of the last prisoner release. The Loya Jirga said it expected the Taliban to begin “direct negotiations” with Kabul “immediately, without any excuse.” Until now, the Taliban has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Afghan government or deal with it directly, treating it as a puppet of the United States.
The last batch of 400 prisoners included some of the most hardcore Taliban jihadis, including almost 150 death-row inmates and 44 terrorists of great concern to the United States and other Western governments.