The Afghan government and the Taliban militant group have reached a deal to exchange captives, in a move that could pave the way for direct talks between the two sides.
Under the deal, the Afghan government would free Anas Haqqani, a leader of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani militant group, and two senior Taliban commanders in exchange for an American and an Australian professor held hostage by the Taliban.
“In order to pave the way for face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban, the government has decided to free Taliban prisoners in exchange for two university professors,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised speech on Tuesday.
The American and the Australian professor were abducted by the Taliban from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul in 2016.
The swap comes at a time when talks between the Taliban and the United States have collapsed.
The administration of President Ghani had been left out of those talks. The Taliban have been saying they do not recognize the Kabul government.
It was not clear if the swap deal would change the Taliban’s stance.
In an initiative of his own, President Ghani has proposed a seven-point plan meant to build on the stalled talks between the US and Taliban and bring an end to the militancy in Afghanistan.