By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: A recent report found that Taliban prisoners released by the Afghan government as part of a deal brokered by the United States aimed at ending almost 20 years of war are returning to the battlefield as commanders and fighters, in direct contravention of pledges made by the insurgents to the White House.
Confidential research obtained by Foreign Policy shows that the majority of Taliban prisoners released under an agreement signed by insurgent leaders and the United States are taking up arms to fight Afghan forces.
In an unreleased paper, according to Foreign Policy, written for the Afghan Peace Dialogue Project at Queen’s University in Belfast, Norther Ireland, the Taliban experts Michael Semple and Felix Kuehn found that former Taliban prisoners were “participating in combat, being killed fighting, being taken prisoner and one case of an ex-prisoner being involved with revenge assassinations.”
A majority, 68 percent, of the 108 former Taliban prisoners profiled for the research “have already been re-integrated into the Taliban and have resumed active roles in the conflict, or are in Taliban groups intent on resuming fighting, or are occupying military or political positions which are fundamentally linked to the Taliban war effort,” Semple and Kuehn write, as reported by FP.
“A number of ex-prisoners have been appointed to direct command positions since their release,” they found. “Two ex-prisoners have reassumed their former military command positions where brothers or sons had taken over temporarily. … A number have already assumed oﬃcial positions within the Taliban shadow administration. The appointment of ex-prisoners as district governor—which are essentially in charge of military aﬀairs and oversee civilian matters at a district level—is now widespread.”
Another 8 percent of the interviewees wished to return to the battle but were “being held back by family opposition,” mostly by their wives. A further 27, or 24 percent, “will categorically not re-join the conflict” for various reasons, mainly because they wished to return to civilian life.
A senior Afghan official, who did not wish to be identified, said the report’s findings “comport with what we have observed.”
The revelations of Taliban deception come as an Afghan security official confirmed that all prisoners have been released from both sides. An Afghan government delegation is preparing to leave for Qatar on Friday, to prepare for direct talks with the Taliban leadership, which maintains a political office in the emirate.
The United States signed a bilateral deal on Feb. 29 with the Taliban in which Washington agreed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and end almost 20 years of war following the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In return, the insurgents agreed to cut ties with al Qaeda and stop attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Since Feb. 29, Taliban violence has escalated—with a brief cease-fire to mark Eid at the end of July. They have largely adhered to the commitment not to attack U.S. forces—though rocket attacks on bases in Helmand in July were blamed on the Taliban, a New York Times report said. The United Nations recorded 3,500 conflict-related civilian casualties, including 1,300 deaths, in the first half of 2020.