Last Updated: Tue Feb 22, 2011 21:50 pm (KSA) 18:50 pm (GMT)

Afghan peace council seeks Guantanamo visit

There are thought to be around 15 Afghans currently detained at Guantanamo (File)
There are thought to be around 15 Afghans currently detained at Guantanamo (File)

Afghanistan's High Council For Peace wants to send a delegation to secure the release of Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay prison as part of reconciliation efforts, one of its members said Tuesday.

Arsala Rahmani, head of the Council's prisoner release committee, said the delegation would call for figures including Khairullah Khairkhwa, a top Taliban commander detained at the U.S.-run prison in Cuba since 2002, to be freed.

President Hamid Karzai last year set up the High Council for Peace to seek talks with the Taliban in return for them laying down their arms and accepting the constitution. The Taliban have publicly rejected the peace overtures.

Rahmani added that Khairkhwa's U.S. lawyer had emailed the High Council for Peace calling for his freedom and offering the jailed militant's help to broker peace with the Taliban.

Karzai backs the plan to visit Guantanamo, Rahmani added.

"We are determined to send this delegation. That is our decision but so far, we have not contacted the U.S. government," he told AFP.

If the visit is made, the delegation will "seek the release of all Afghans detained there," he said.

Rahmani added: "We'll be seeking the release of all Afghans who are detained inside and outside Afghanistan" in connection with Taliban activities.

There are thought to be around 15 Afghans currently detained at Guantanamo.

Responding to the comments, the U.S. embassy in Kabul said in a statement that it supported the High Council for Peace's work.

But it added: "Transfers or releases of Afghan nationals detained at Guantanamo are conducted in accordance with the results of a comprehensive U.S. government inter-agency review of the status of detained individuals."

Afghanistan has been in the grip of a deadly insurgency waged by remnants of the Taliban since their regime was toppled in a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

There are around 140,000 international troops in the country but they are due to start limited withdrawals from July with the Afghan police and army scheduled to take control of security by 2010.

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