Pakistanis release 8 Afghan Taliban prisoners in peace effort

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has released another batch of Afghan Taliban prisoners, the Foreign Ministry announced Monday, a further sign of the government's willingness to facilitate efforts by Washington and Kabul to negotiate a peace agreement with the insurgents.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Khan said the release was done to "help in the peace process in Afghanistan."

The ministry said eight Afghan Taliban detainees were released, including former Afghan Justice Minister Nooruddin Turabi and Abdul Bari, a former governor of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, which has long been a stronghold for the Taliban.

In November, Pakistan released 18 Afghan Taliban detainees at the request of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's top peace negotiator. Kabul has been pressing its neighbor to release more prisoners who they hope would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Pakistan is widely viewed as crucial to efforts to broker a peaceful end to the conflict in Afghanistan, now in its 12th year.

Many experts believe Pakistan continues to support Afghan insurgents — possibly to counter ties between India and Afghanistan — though in recent months the experts say Islamabad's willingness to cooperate in Taliban reconciliation efforts has been encouraging. The United States is preparing to pull most of its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Those released also included the Taliban's former Kabul governor, Mullah Daud Jan, and Allah Daad Tabib, another former government minister.

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Afghans set next phase of handover

Afghan forces are preparing to take the lead in safeguarding more parts of the country in line with plans to assume full responsibility for security when most foreign troops withdraw by the end of 2014, President Hamid Karzai's government announced Monday. The next phase of the handover will begin in two months and will give the national forces primary responsibility for defending 87 percent of the population, said Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who heads a transition commission set up by the government.

Pakistanis release 8 Afghan Taliban prisoners in peace effort 12/31/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 10:26pm]

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