(The New York Times): The two Western teachers held by the Taliban are safe with American forces, officials say, and now three Taliban figures are to be freed. Some Afghans worry it won’t help renew peace talks.
The Taliban freed two Westerners they had held for more than three years on Tuesday, in exchange for the release of three senior insurgent leaders, officials said, in a deal that officials hoped could pave the way for Afghan peace talks with the Taliban. The Westerners were released to American forces by the Taliban, and included an American, Kevin C. King, 63, and an Australian, Timothy J. Weeks, 50, teachers at the American University in Kabul who were abducted in 2016. The key figure being returned to the Taliban is Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s military operations leader and a leading fund-raiser and propagandist before he was captured in 2014. The exchange was brokered, in part, by the American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who had earlier negotiated a tentative agreement with the Taliban that would have included terms of an American troop withdrawal. But those talks were abruptly Now, the prisoner exchange could be a step toward restarting talks between the United States and the Taliban, who have said they will stand by the terms negotiated with Mr. Khalilzad.