KABUL -- The Afghan government has released more than 900 Taliban fighters since the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban aimed to put an end to the Afghan war, an official said Thursday (May 7).
The release is part of a prisoner-exchange programme included in the US-Taliban deal agreed February 29, which has seen the Taliban free dozens of Afghan security personnel.
"So far 933 Taliban detainees have been released from Afghan jails," Javid Faisal, spokesman for Afghanistan's National Security Council, told AFP.
"I will not fight against the government again," Mohammad Hakim, a Taliban prisoner from Ghazni Province, said in a video released by the Afghan National Security Council. "We are very happy with Afghan soldiers because they have treated us very well in prison. We regret what we have done in the past."
In return, the Taliban have released 132 captured security personnel, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.
Later on Friday (May 8), Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban's political office in Doha, announced the release of an 48 additional Afghan soldiers.
"This process will continue in the future as well," Shaheen said in a Twitter post.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy to Afghanistan who negotiated the US-Taliban deal, sees the prisoner exchange as an "important step" toward reducing violence in the war-torn country.
The deal stipulated the Afghan government would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the insurgents would free 1,000 Afghan security personnel.
The swap was supposed to have taken place by March 10 but has hit several hurdles, with the Afghan government claiming the Taliban wanted 15 of their "top commanders" released.
Those released by the Afghan government so far are low-risk Taliban prisoners who have vowed to abstain from fighting, officials said.