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Taliban frees American, Australian in prisoner swap

19 Nov 2019 TheHill

The Taliban reportedly said it has freed an American and an Australian prisoner as part of a swap for three Taliban members who were released by Afghanistan's government. 

A Taliban official told The Associated Press that American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were released in the Zabul province's Naw Bahar district, which is mostly under Taliban control. 

The men were given over to U.S. forces and exited the area in a U.S. helicopter, the news service reported Tuesday. 

The American University of Afghanistan confirmed to the AP the release of King and Weeks, who are both professors there. 

The university said in a statement that its “community shares the relief of the families of Kevin and Timothy, and we look forward to providing all the support we can to Kevin and Tim and their families.”

The three Taliban prisoners were sent to Qatar, according to the AP. 

It was reported last week that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said his government had agreed to the “conditional release" of the Taliban members in exchange for King and Weeks's freedom. 

Ghani said the decision was made after consultations with the United States, according to NBC News

The announcement followed stalled peace talks between between the U.S., Afghanistan and the Taliban. President Trump called off negotiations in September after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 11 civilians and a U.S. service member. 

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Tuesday Ghani and Secretary of State Pompeo spoke om Monday to review the necessary steps to implement the release of the Taliban detainees. 

"Pompeo reiterated U.S. support for President Ghani’s decision and committed to work closely together to address violence if the President’s decision does not produce the intended results," the statement said. 

"Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed the continuation of U.S. support to Afghan security forces and hailed their performance. Ongoing security support and a political settlement are both necessary for Afghans to achieve peace and prevent international terrorists from ever again using Afghanistan as a platform for international terrorism," Ortagus added. 



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