Taliban officials have told The Associated Press that three Taliban prisoners released by Kabul have been flown to Qatar for a swap for an American and an Australian hostage held by the insurgents. The whereabouts of the two hostages — American, Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks — were not immediately known on Tuesday.
The three Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who also heads the fearsome Haqqani network, were to have been freed more than one week ago by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Pakistan has been playing an active and negative role in Afghanistan, a US report asserted, stating that Islamabad is attempting to weaken the government in Kabul. In US Congress' latest report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recognised Pakistan as the most significant neighbour of Afghanistan. It further added that Pakistan's security services have maintained ties with Afghan insurgent groups.
Pakistan, it said, has played an active, and by many accounts, a negative role in Afghan affairs for decades. "Pakistan's security services maintain ties to Afghan insurgent groups, most notably the Haqqani Network, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) that has become an official, a semiautonomous component of the Taliban," CRS, which periodically prepares reports on issues of importance for Congressmen for them to make informed decisions, said.
Afghanistan leaders, along with US military commanders, attribute much of the insurgency's power and persistence directly or indirectly to the support of Pakistan. Moreover, the report said that US President Donald Trump has even accused Pakistan establishment of "housing the very terrorists that we are fighting."
The report asserted that US officials have long identified terror safe havens in Pakistan that have posed a threat to the security of Afghanistan. However, the charge has been disputed by some Pakistani officials. "Pakistan may view a weak and destabilised Afghanistan as preferable to a strong, unified Afghan state (particularly one led by an ethnic Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul; Pakistan has a large and restive Pashtun minority)," the CRS said. However, instability in Afghanistan could rebound to Pakistan's detriment; Pakistan has struggled with indigenous Islamist militants of its own, the report added.
(With AP inputs)