Taliban prisoner swap for kidnapped professors never happened, says Afghan diplomat

Afghans have called for Anas Haqqani to be executed in the past and feel he should not be freed. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: The planned exchange of two senior Taliban commanders and a leader of the Haqqani militant group for an American and an Australian kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2016 has not taken place, a diplomat and a former Afghan official said on Wednesday.

The diplomat, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, declined to provide details about why the planned exchange, which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced on Tuesday, did not occur.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Afghan and Australian embassies in Washington.

The Afghan government’s decision to free Anas Haqqani and two other Taliban commanders, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, was taken in the hope of securing direct talks with the Taliban, which has refused to engage with what it calls an illegitimate “puppet” regime in Kabul. All three were captured in 2014.

In return US citizen Kevin King and Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, professors kidnapped by the Taliban in August 2016 from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, were to be freed.