• publish: 5 September 2020
  • time: 5:32 pm
  • category: Politics
  • No: 15197

Released Taliban prisoners return to battlefield

Taliban prisoners released by the Afghan government over the past few weeks are returning to the battlefield as commanders and fighters in contravention of the Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban.

Foreign Policy reported the majority of Taliban prisoners released are taking up arms to fight Afghan forces in a bid to overthrow the government. 

Foreign Policy reports that in an unpublished paper written for the Afghan Peace Dialogue Project by Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Taliban experts Michael Semple and Felix Kuehn found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.”

The report stated that 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.”

The paper written on the issue states: “A number of ex-prisoners have been appointed to direct command positions since their release.”

“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 uluswals—which are essentially in charge of military affairs and oversee civilian matters at a district level—is now widespread.”

Foreign Policy reported that eight percent interviewed wanted to return to battle but were being held back by family opposition while a further 24 percent “will categorically not rejoin the conflict” for various reasons, mainly because they wished to return to civilian life.

Foreign Policy stated a senior Afghan official, who did not wish to be identified, said the report’s findings “comport with what we have observed.” 

This comes after the Afghan government confirmed this week that over 5,000 Taliban prisoners had been released as per the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban that was signed in February and which was a precondition to peace talks. 

In addition, six Afghan National Defense Force Commandos in Taliban custody were also freed paving the way for much hoped-for negotiations between the two sides. 

All indications point towards initial talks starting within the next few days in Doha but no firm details have yet been released. 

However, since the signing of the Doha agreement, the Taliban has held back on attacking US and NATO troops or installations but it has escalated violence around the country – specifically targeting Afghan military bases and carrying out targeted assassinations.

However, the Queen’s University paper states that there is no question of the prisoners “returning” to the Taliban as by definition they never left and are obliged to continue “jihad.” 

By sending released prisoners back to the battlefield, regional Taliban leaders were complying with a directive of their senior leader “to refrain from placing obstacles to the progress of the jihad. 

“Some Taliban interviewed understood the stance that prisoners should not return to the fight, as a deliberate deception. … They understood that pretending that prisoners would not be allowed to return to fight was a necessary price to be paid for ensuring that the prisoner release continued,” the researchers wrote. 

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