Nov 19, 2019

Taliban releases 2 Westerners in prisoner swap

American University campus in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

The Taliban on Tuesday released an Australian and American they held for three years, as part of an exchange for three senior insurgent leaders, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The release of American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks comes two months after peace talks between the Taliban and U.S. failed. The officials who brokered the deal hope it will restart the talks, per the Times. The Taliban has said "they will stand by the terms negotiated" with American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, the Times writes.

Context:

  • King and Weeks were teaching at the American University in Kabul when they were abducted in 2016, the Times notes.
  • Anas Haqqani is one of the key Taliban leaders being released. He helped lead fundraising efforts and military operations.
  • Senior Taliban commanders Abdul Rashid and Hajji Mali Khan are also being released. Rashid predominantly works with suicide bombers, according to the Times.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Trump says U.S. has renewed peace talks with Taliban

Trump at a surprise visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Nov. 28, 2019. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump says he has relaunched peace negotiations with the Taliban.

What he's saying: Trump said in a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Thursday that he believes the Taliban wants a ceasefire, per pool reports, and he wants to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 12-13,000 to 8,600.

Go deeperArrowNov 28, 2019

Trump kicks cease-fire curveball into potential Taliban peace talks

President Trump on an unannounced Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's Thanksgiving declaration that the U.S. has relaunched peace talks with the Taliban apparently caught the Taliban by surprise, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Trump's stated belief that the group now wants a cease-fire exceeds the terms of the Afghan peace plan that both countries were prepared to sign in September.

Go deeperArrowNov 30, 2019

U.S. and Taliban restart peace talks in Qatar

Taliban leaders during peace talks with the U.S. in July in Qatar. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. and the Taliban reopened peace talks in Qatar on Saturday, nearly three months after President Trump abruptly called diplomatic negotiations off, Al Jazeera reports.

Why it matters: These renewed efforts are key to paving the way for direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul to end a more than 18-year war, AP notes. The first goal for the U.S. is to encourage the Taliban to reduce violence, and ultimately agree to a permanent cease fire. The group has carried out numerous deadly attacks since talks fell apart earlier this year.

Go deeperArrowDec 7, 2019