[ti:Afghan President: Kidnapped Professors to Be Exchanged for Taliban Leaders]
[00:00.04]Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced Tuesday
[00:05.52]that the Taliban will release two foreign professors
[00:10.26]in return for the government's release of three Taliban leaders.
[00:17.28]American Kevin King and Australian Timothy John Weeks
[00:23.03]were kidnapped in Kabul in August of 2016.
[00:29.12]They were seized near the American University of Afghanistan where they had been teaching.
[00:37.56]In January 2017, the Taliban released a video in which the two professors
[00:45.69]asked their families to pressure the United States
[00:50.14]to negotiate with the Taliban and to exchange prisoners for them.
[00:58.08]The three released Taliban leaders include Anas Haqqani,
[01:03.39]the younger brother of the current chief of the Haqqani group,
[01:07.80]along with Haji Mali Khan and Abdul Rashid.
[01:13.48]President Ghani said that they were being released
[01:16.93]"conditionally in exchange" for the two professors.
[01:22.24]Ghani said his government made the decision after discussion
[01:27.15]with international partners, especially the United States.
[01:33.32]He said it was a hard decision, but that the exchange helps
[01:39.12]the "talks with the Taliban and for reaching peace and stability."
[01:45.76]He said his government also received reports
[01:49.81]that the health of the Western hostages was failing.
[01:54.84]A Taliban spokesman told VOA he knew of Ghani's announcement.
[02:00.95]He added that the Taliban would offer reaction
[02:05.04]"only after we know for sure the (Taliban) prisoners have reached us."
[02:11.56]The American University of Afghanistan released a statement saying
[02:16.77]it was "encouraged to hear reports of the possible release
[02:21.88]of our two colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks."
[02:27.84]People close to the Afghan president said
[02:31.06]the prisoners will be kept in a third country,
[02:35.01]possibly Qatar, until the Taliban releases the Western hostages.
[02:41.92]The U.S. and Taliban have held talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
[02:48.60]The release of hostages is expected to help restart these negotiations.
[02:56.92]The two sides appeared to be close to an agreement
[03:01.32]before the talks ended suddenly in September.
[03:06.48]The U.S. special diplomat to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, led those earlier negotiations.
[03:15.52]He is also credited with the negotiations leading to the release of these hostages.
[03:24.28]The Taliban refuses to talk directly with the Afghan government in Kabul.
[03:31.32]I'm Caty Weaver. 更多聽力請訪問51VOA.COM