• What Next? After Delays, Taliban Releases Its Last American Hostage

    Surge Summary: An American professor – the last known U.S. prisoner in Taliban custody – and an Australian colleague have been released by the group to U.S. forces. In exchange, three Taliban commanders were set free. Could this portend even more extensive steps toward a final peace settlement with the Afghan political/military organization?

    Amidst some set-backs lately re US efforts to come to satisfactorily peaceable terms with the Taliban, some wonderful news suddenly emerges:

    The last known American to be captive to the Taliban is free. Per the BBC, Kevin King, along with Australian Timothy Weeks, both professors kidnapped in 2016 from American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, were set free Tuesday to US forces in that nation. The release occurred in exchange for a trio of Taliban commanders who were emancipated and flown to Qatar. The New York Times reports,

    The Taliban confirmed custody of the men in Doha, where it operates a political office, following the release of the Westerners, who appeared in good health. … The swap, which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced last week as a means to foster peace negotiations, had been delayed after two attacks within 24 hours. [Arden Dier/Newser]

    A 48-hour ceasefire was observed before King, 63, and Weeks, 50, were turned over in the Nawbahar district of Zabul province, per the BBC. They then boarded a US helicopter that took them to Bagram Air Base in northern Afghanistan, the Times reports, citing a senior Trump administration official.

    “We are so happy to hear that my brother has been freed and is on his way home to us,” King’s sister, Stephanie Miller, says in a statement, per the Times. The American University of Afghanistan says it “shares the relief of the families of Kevin and Timothy, and we look forward to providing all the support we can.”

    Dier reports an additional part of the agreement stipulated ten members of the Afghan security forces were to be freed by the Taliban, although at this time it’s unclear if that release has yet occurred.

    After previous fits and starts, might this development be a signal the terror-abetting group is finally ready to broker genuine and dependable peace terms with U.S. authorities? It would be wise to keep a weather-eye on that possibility.

    H/T: Arden Dier/Newser

    Image: Timothy Weeks (L), Kevin King (R) (2017); NBC News; Screen Shot; https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/taliban-releases-two-professors-in-prisoner-hostage-swap-73715781959

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