The US-backed prisoner swap between Kabul and the Taliban* eventually backfired on the Afghan government as one of its former detainees, a jihadi commander Mawlavi Talib, is now heading a insurgent advance on the key southern city of Lashkargah, according to US, Afghan, and Western officials quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
Talib was arrested by Afghan government soldiers in 2020 when attempting to pass through a checkpoint on a road in eastern Helmand. However, he was freed just months later, in accordance with the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in February 2020 in Doha with the aim of ending the 19-year conflict. The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners was part of this deal and effort to encourage the Islamist group to talk to the Afghan government and negotiate a cease-fire.
However, Donald Trump’s defeat in November elections put the deal at risk and led to the postponement of the pull-out, which was initially scheduled for 1 May 2021. Joe Biden’s push to reconsider the Doha accords triggered a wave of criticism from the Taliban political wing, who urged Washington to remain committed to the deal or face fierce resistance.
Furthermore, the Biden administration reportedly attempted to renegotiate conditions for political settlement in Afghanistan specifically…