Trump hopes Afghanistan prisoner release prompts ceasefire

Earlier this week, Afghan government released 3 Taliban commanders in exchange for 2 Western captives.

    Trump posted the tweet amid a flurry of responses to hearings on his impeachment [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]
    Trump posted the tweet amid a flurry of responses to hearings on his impeachment [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

    United States President Donald Trump has said he hopes the release of two Western prisoners held hostage by the Afghan Taliban this week could help pave the way to an end to the war in Afghanistan.

    Trump thanked Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for his support in securing the release of US citizen Kevin King and Australian Tim Weeks as part of a prisoner swap reportedly involving three Taliban commanders.

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    "We join the families of Kevin King & Tim Weeks in celebrating their release from Taliban captivity. Thanks to President Ghani for his courageous support.

    "Let's hope this leads to more good things on the peace front like a ceasefire that will help end this long war. Proud of my team!" Trump said on Twitter.

    Sources told Al Jazeera that the three released Taliban commanders, which included senior leader Anas Haqqani had landed in Qatar on Tuesday - the country hosts the Taliban's political office at the request of the US.

    King and Weeks, both university professors, had been held by the Taliban for three years and were under US military custody prior to being reunited with their families, according to a statement by the US State Department.

    Ending an 18-year conflict

    The prisoner swap came after Ghani announced on November 12 that Haqqani and the two other commanders would be freed.

    Haqqani is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani Network - a Taliban affiliate. His older brother Sirajuddin now leads the group.

    At the time, Ghani said the decision was made after consultations with the US and was aimed at "facilitating face-to-face negotiations directly with the Taliban", who have, until now, refused to engage with what it calls an illegitimate, US-backed "puppet" government.

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    The Taliban seized power in 1996 and ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when it was dislodged from power in 2001 by a US-led invasion.

    Renewed efforts to end the country's 18-year conflict have been stepped up recently, with US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad visiting Pakistan last month to meet the Taliban's top negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

    Washington said Khalilzad was in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to follow up on talks he held in September in New York with Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan. The administration insisted Khalilzad was not in Pakistan to restart US-Taliban peace talks.

    The meeting was the first that Khalilzad had held with the Taliban since Trump declared in September that the peace talks, which were held in Qatar over the past year, were "dead".

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies