Key to Afghan Peace, Prisoner Releases Threatened by Coronavirus

Growing concerns prisoners will die in custody before long-delayed exchange

The biggest stumbling block in the US-Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan is prisoner releases, with the Ghani government still months behind on planned releases. Officials are concerned that the coronavirus could compound this delay into a much bigger problem.

Being piled into prisons isn’t ideal for health, and during a pandemic, that’s potentially disastrous. This is a big reason why around the world, nations are trying to limit their prison populations, releasing who they can rather than risking killing them.

That’s not happening in Afghanistan, and as they trickle out small numbers of Taliban, the real danger is that some of the people the Taliban were assured would be released will die in prison, months after the deal they reached should’ve secured their release.

While Ghani has suggested he needs more time to screen prisoners, if Taliban figures start dying this stops being a delay and starts being a flagrant violation of the peace deal. Delays are only temporary until they can’t be undone.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of