Kabul welcomes imminent release of Taleban commander

KABUL (AFP) - The Afghan government on Friday welcomed Pakistan's announcement that Taleban prisoner Abdul Ghani Baradar would be freed shortly, saying the move would help peace efforts after 12 years of war.

Baradar, often described as the Taleban's former second-in-command, will be released on Saturday, Pakistan's foreign ministry in Islamabad said in a statement.

"We welcome that this step is being taken," Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Afghan president Hamid Karzai told AFP. "We believe this will help the Afghan peace process.

"This is something we have been calling for for a long time. It was on the agenda when the president visited Pakistan, so we are pleased."

Mr Karzai made a two-day trip to Pakistan last month in a bid to overcome a series of public rows that have hampered efforts to end the war in Afghanistan as US-led Nato combat troops withdraw.

During the visit, the Afghan president urged Pakistan to help arrange peace talks between his government and the Taleban.

Elements of the Pakistani state are widely accused of funding, controlling and sheltering the Taleban, but Islamabad says it will do anything to stop the fighting in Afghanistan.

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