By Abdul Haleem
KABUL, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Afghan government has sped up the release of Taliban detainees over the past couple of months in hopes of accelerating the peace process and national reconciliation ahead of 2014 withdrawal of NATO-led troops from the militancy-ridden Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Taliban detainees held formerly by the U.S. military in Bagram, the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan, have been freed over the past two months. The latest batch composed of 129 people were set free in Taliban former stronghold Kandahar province on Saturday.
At the request of Afghan government, Pakistan has also set free more than two dozen Taliban detainees including senior Taliban leader Mawlawi Noorudin Tarabi and commander Anwarul Haq Mujahid since November, which was praised by Kabul as a step forward to facilitate talks with Taliban.
Officials in Kabul believe that the freed Taliban would serve as intermediaries between Afghan administration and the Taliban leadership allegedly sheltering in Pakistan.
Afghan Presidential Spokesman Aimal Faizi has welcomed the release of Taliban detainees by Pakistan, saying the government of Afghanistan supports the former detainees and would provide security for them if they return to Afghanistan.
However, Afghan observers doubt the capability and goodwill of the former Taliban detainees to conduct peace talks in Afghanistan. "Since the released Taliban leaders have not joined the government of Afghanistan, I don't think their release could serve peace process in the country," said legislator Bilqis Roshan in a television panel discussion.
None of the former detainees have formally joined the government-backed peace process in Afghanistan. Nor has Pakistan formally handed over any released Taliban element to Kabul.
However, Afghan officials believe the release of Taliban prisoners would bolster the government-initiated national reconciliation. "We are sure their release could further help the government efforts seek peace and it will support the peace and reconciliation process in the country," said Mohammad Yar Barakzai, an official of Afghan Defense Ministry who set free 129 Taliban detainees in Kandahar on Saturday.
More than 350 prisoners have been released from Bagram detention center over the past couple of days. "What the released Taliban have done towards peace and national reconciliation so far?" parliamentarian Zalmai Zabuli questioned in the television panel discussion, adding the freed Taliban would have no role in bringing about peace and security in the country.
The Taliban outfit has vowed to continue Jihad or holy war against the NATO-led troops stationed in Afghanistan. "Those have been set free would either go home or rejoin the Taliban rank to fight the government," former Afghan diplomat and political analyst Ahmad Sayedi told Xinhua.