The government of Afghanistan has freed 100 Taliban prisoners on Wednesday which is touted to be the first step in a peace process with the hardline Islamists, despite the suspension of the group's talks on a planned prisoner exchange which is crucial for moving to formal talks to end years of the war.

The differences regarding the prisoner release question have been the reason behind complicating US-brokered attempts for creating a lasting peace agreement in the quest of ending more than 18 years of conflict in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan frees 100 Taliban prisoners

Taliban
YouTube/Screen Grab

"The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan released 100 Taliban prisoners today based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence, as part of our efforts for peace," said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council, which has been negotiating with the Taliban.

A February pact between the United States and the Taliban, under which US-led international forces will withdraw in phases in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, is the best chance to reduce US military involvement in Afghanistan.

But peace hinges on talks between the US-backed Afghan government and the militants. A prisoner exchange is meant to build confidence on both sides for those talks. Despite this week's setbacks over the prisoner releases, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said progress had been made since he visited Kabul on March 23 and also met Taliban officials in Qatar to iron out the differences.

(With agency inputs)