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Afghanistan begins releasing the last Taliban prisoners as the peace deal begins ahead



The Afghan government on Thursday released 80 of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for stalled peace talks after nearly two decades of bitter and violent conflict in the country.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani received progress from the Loya Jirga advisory assembly, which sanctioned the release of prisoners in a bid to speed up talks in the war-torn nation.

Some of the prisoners have been involved in devastating bombings in the capital Kabul. During a televised interview Thursday with the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, Ghani warned of the dangers they could pose to lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The release of the prisoners by both sides is part of an agreement signed in February between the US and the Taliban. She called for the release of 5,000 government-held Taliban and 1

,000 government and military personnel held by the insurgent group as a gesture of goodwill ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.

Despite prisoner exchanges on both sides, talks on a mutual peace deal due to begin in March have been stalled.

With the latest developments, Afghan leaders told the Associated Press talks could begin by August 20 in Qatar, where the Taliban is based.

Another major prediction of the proposed Doha-brokered peace deal in February between the Taliban and the US is the large-scale withdrawal of US troops to Afghanistan.

The US has been slowly closing military bases and troops have been withdrawn from the region for the past few months.

The U.S. reduced the number of troops in the region to 8,600, from an altitude of over 100,000 in 2010.

By November, less than 5,000 troops are still expected to be in Afghanistan, up from nearly 13,000 when the agreement was signed on February 29th.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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