Two professors from the American University of Afghanistan — an American and an Australian — will be released by the Taliban as part of a prisoner swap, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced Tuesday.
U.S. citizen Kevin King and Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, who were kidnapped at gunpoint from the university in Kabul in 2016, will be exchanged for three Taliban commanders; Anas Haqqani, Haji Maali Khan, and Hafiz Rasheed Ahamd Omari. Haqqani is the son of the Jalaluddin Haqqani, who founded the Haqqani terror network, which held U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl captive for five years.
The Taliban were being kept in Bagram prison, an Afghan government detention center which houses high-profile prisoners. Ghani said on Tuesday during the announcement that the government has around 11,000 Taliban fighters in custody.
Ghani called the swap a “difficult, but necessary decision” intended to demonstrate the willingness for peace. He also said that the decision was made after authorities became aware that one of the prisoners was deteriorating in health, and in consultation with the United States and the international community.
In September, President Trump said he would cancel secretly-planned peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David after a U.S. soldier was killed in Kabul.
The American University of Afghanistan said in a statement that it “is encouraged to hear reports of the possible release of our two colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.”
“While AUAF is not part of these discussions, we continue to urge the immediate and safe return of our faculty members who have been held in captivity, away from their friends and families, for more than three years,” the university said.