Two professors from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, of one whom is a U.S. citizen, will be released from Taliban captivity as part of a prisoner exchange with the militant organization, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced Tuesday.
The two men – American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks – were ambushed at gunpoint by insurgents while leaving the university in 2016. They last appeared in a video, released in 2017, appealing to President Donald Trump to secure their release.
Ghani confirmed the deal in a televised speech and said he hoped the move would “pave the way for face-to-face” peace talks with the Taliban. He said the decision was made in coordination with the United States and international community.
Three Taliban commanders – Anas Haqqani, Haji Maali Khan and Abdul Rasheed Haqani – will be released as part of the agreeement, the president said.
Trump in September abruptly ended months of U.S. peace negotiations with Taliban leaders, who control large parts of Afghanistan, after the group admitted killing a U.S. soldier in an assault that killed a further 11 people. The cancelled secret meetings were due to be held Camp David with the Taliban and the Afghan president and aimed at aimed at securing a peace deal to end nearly 20 years of war in the country.