Afghan Delegation Headed to Gitmo for Talks on Releasing Taliban Detainees

February 22, 2011 - 6:37 AM

Gitmo, Guantanamo

Navy-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AP File Photo)

Kabul (AP) - Afghanistan's peace council will send a delegation to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay to discuss the possible release of Taliban detainees as a goodwill gesture to boost reconciliation talks with insurgents.

Arsala Rahmani, chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council's committee on prisoners, said Tuesday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was backing the council's decision to travel to Cuba to seek the release of several prisoners, including Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former Taliban official who has been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years.

Khairkhwa's attorney, Frank Goldsmith, has said he received an e-mail in January from a legal adviser to the peace council, saying the council wanted the detainee released and repatriated to Afghanistan to help with the peace process. The e-mail said Khairkhwa could be repatriated under certain conditions, including that he stay in Kabul, though he wouldn't be in confinement.

Goldsmith said he was working with the legal adviser to prepare a written request that would be sent to the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Abdul Wahid Baghrani, a member of the peace council, said participants at last year's national conference, or peace jirga, told the Afghan government that if it wanted to make peace with the Taliban it needed to seek the release of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the main U.S. detention center in Afghanistan near Bagram Air Field.

"If the prisoners are released, this will be a goodwill gesture to the Afghan people," Baghrani said. "It would be a good step for making progress for the peace effort."