Kabul: President Hamid Karzai on Sunday ordered a review of all cases of Taliban suspects being held in Afghan jails and said those being detained on doubtful evidence must be released.
The step was Karzai`s first official response to a national conference last week on ways to end his country`s nearly nine-year-old insurgency, which included recommendations to move toward negotiations with militant factions.
The conference, or jirga, also recommended that Taliban prisoners being held in Afghan custody and by the US military should be released if they were being held on "inaccurate statements or unsubstantiated allegations”.
Hundreds of Taliban and other militant suspects are being held in Afghan jails across the country. Hundreds more, including al Qaeda operatives, are being held in US military jails in Afghanistan and Cuba.
Karzai`s office said in a statement he had ordered the formation of a delegation including officials from the Supreme Court, a government-backed reconciliation commission, Justice Ministry and other judicial officers. The delegation would "identify those prisoners who are in jails with not enough evidence for them to be in jail (and for) the delegation release them."
Last week`s jirga — made up of some 1,500 tribal, religious, provincial and other leaders — said insurgent prisoners should be released as a goodwill gesture that would precede peace talks with the Taliban. But it also stressed that insurgents who want to take part in the peace process must cut their ties with foreign terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
Washington supports Karzai`s plans to offer incentives for rank-and-file militants to lay down arms but remains sceptical about Kabul seeking negotiations with insurgent leaders — although such a strategy could be key to the eventual withdrawal of US forces from the country.
US officials contend the Taliban leadership — which is demanding the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan — feels it has little reason to negotiate because it believes it is winning the war. NATO forces are preparing a major operation in the Taliban heartland of southern Kandahar province which the Obama administration hopes can help turn the war around.
On Sunday, NATO reported that its forces had killed a Taliban commander and several other insurgents in the western province of Farah.