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Taliban releases 2 Westerners in prisoner swap

American University in Kabul, Afghanistan
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.

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