Freed Taliban prisoners ‘returning to battlefield’

Special Freed Taliban prisoners ‘returning to battlefield’
Hundreds of Taliban prisoners freed by the Afghan government as part of a historic peace deal. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 November 2020

Freed Taliban prisoners ‘returning to battlefield’

Freed Taliban prisoners ‘returning to battlefield’
  • Kabul accuses militants of breaching historic peace agreement

KABUL: Hundreds of Taliban prisoners freed by the Afghan government as part of a historic peace deal have returned to the battlefield, officials in Kabul told Arab News on Wednesday.
Government officials accuse the insurgent group of violating the agreement signed in February this year.
“There are Taliban commanders among the 580 prisoners who have returned to fighting. Before their freedom, they had sworn on the Holy Qur’an that they will not fight again,” Tariq Aryan, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said.
The accord between the Taliban and Washington excluded the Afghan government and insisted on an exchange of prisoners between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and the insurgent group.
Under pressure from the US, Kabul released at least 6,000 Taliban prisoners over three months as part of its efforts to kickstart crucial talks with the militants.  
Now government officials claim that 580 former Taliban prisoners have rejoined the insurgency, with most taking part in attacks in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in recent weeks. Almost 40,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting.
Dawa Khan Minapal, a spokesman for Ghani, said the Taliban’s deployment of former prisoners contravened the peace deal.
“Information from our defense and security forces show that some Taliban freed from prisons have joined the fighting or have been persuaded to do so. This is a breach of the peace agreement,” Minapal said.
The government’s claims could cast further doubts on the future of the Afghan peace talks which began in Doha on Sept. 12 and have yet to make any progress.
A Defense Ministry spokesman, Fawad Aman, said that intelligence forces believe that some prisoners who returned to the fighting had been killed.
However, Mir Dad Nijrabi, a member of the parliamentary defense and security committee, said he was aware of four former prisoners who had been killed during clashes in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul.
“Those freed have either voluntarily joined the Taliban or been recruited again. If one of the 6,000 former prisoners knows 10 people and can bring them over for fighting, it will have an impact and boost the Taliban,” he said.
However, none of the officials who spoke to Arab News were able to substantiate their claims, which were rejected by Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, who said it was “propaganda.” 
Mujahid accused government forces of either arresting or killing freed prisoners during the raids.
“These prisoners have been told to join their families, and reports that they have gone back to the fighting are merely government propaganda,” he told Arab News.
Ret. Gen. Attiquallah Amarkhail said he had been told by government officials that some Taliban insurgents had returned to the battlefield, but was unable to verify the reports himself, adding that it was “likely that some may have done so.”
“This is an ideological war. An ideological fighter will follow his beliefs even if he is freed after spending 40 years in prison,” Amarkhail said.