The Afghan government on Thursday released 80 of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for long-stalled peace talks after nearly two decades of bitter and violent conflict in the country.
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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani got the green light from the Loya Jirga Consultative Assembly, which authorized the release of prisoners in a bid to speed up talks in the war-torn country.
Some of the prisoners were involved in devastating bombardments in the capital Kabul. In a televised conference Thursday with the United States-based Council on Foreign Relations, Ghani warned of the dangers they could pose to lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The releases of prisoners on both sides are part of an agreement signed in February between the United States and the Taliban. He called for the release of 5,000 government-held Taliban and 1,000 government and military personnel held by the insurgent group, as a gesture of goodwill ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.
Despite prisoner exchanges on both sides, talks for a mutual peace agreement that were to begin in March have stalled.
With the latest developments, Afghan leaders told The Associated Press that talks could begin by August 20 in Qatar, where the Taliban have a headquarters.
Another major stipulation of the proposed peace deal negotiated in Doha in February between the Taliban and the United States is the large-scale withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The United States has slowly closed its military bases and troops have been withdrawing from the region for several months.
The United States has reduced the number of troops in the region to 8,600 from more than 100,000 in 2010.
As of November, fewer than 5,000 troops are still expected to be in Afghanistan, up from nearly 13,000 when the agreement was signed on February 29.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.