KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 18 Taliban prisoners, some of them prominent figures, were released by Pakistan and Afghanistan, with no guarantees that they would not rejoin the insurgency, Afghan and Pakistani officials said Saturday.
Pakistani officials said that they were releasing seven Taliban prisoners to facilitate the peace process, while Afghan officials said they had requested the releases and welcomed the move.
Afghan officials complained, however, that Pakistani officials had backed down on the expected release of one Taliban prisoner, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, formerly the top military commander of the insurgents' movement. Afghan officials have long sought Baradar's release, viewing him as crucial to restarting peace talks with the insurgents.
Separately, Afghan officials confirmed Saturday that the day before they had begun exchanging 11 Taliban prisoners for the release of a female member of the Afghan parliament, who had been kidnapped by the insurgents last month, according to an Afghan official involved in the prisoner exchange, speaking to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
U.S. officials are known to have been concerned about plans to release Taliban prisoners without any guarantees to make sure they do not return to combat roles, but a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul declined to comment.
An official of the High Peace Council in Afghanistan said that the Pakistanis would not release Baradar, citing opposition from the Americans, who had arrested him in a joint operation with Pakistani forces.
Mollawi Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman for Afghanistan's High Peace Council, said the seven released by Pakistan were on a list provided by Afghan officials, which included Baradar. "For some reason, Pakistani officials did not release him," he said. "The others have been released, and no conditions have been set on where they go."
Most were expected to return to their families in Pakistan, he said. "We believe that those Taliban released from Pakistani prisons are effective in the peace process and give a positive message to the Taliban as well," Shahid said.
The 11 Taliban figures released from Pul-e-Charki Prison in Kabul on Friday by Afghan officials were transported to the Moqur district in Ghazni province, where the insurgents were believed to be holding Freeba Ahmadi Kakar, a member of the Afghan parliament from Kandahar province, who was kidnapped on Aug. 11. They would be handed over to intermediaries for the insurgents once Kakar's freedom was verified.