The United States has been secretly releasing captured Taliban fighters from a detention center in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgents to curb ongoing violence in the country, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The "strategic release" program of high-level detainees is designed to give the US a bargaining chip in some areas of Afghanistan where international forces struggle to exercise control, the report said.
The deal stipulates that the fighters must promise to give up violence, however there is little to stop them resuming attacks against Afghan and American troops.
"Everyone agrees they are guilty of what they have done and should remain in detention. Everyone agrees that these are bad guys. But the benefits outweigh the risks," an American official told the Post.
In a visit to Afghanistan last week, President Barack Obama confirmed that the US was pursuing peace talks with the Taliban.
"We have made it clear that they [the Taliban] can be a part of this future if they break with Al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban -- from foot soldiers to leaders -- have indicated an interest in reconciliation. A path to peace is now set before them," Obama said.
A stumbling block in the US-Taliban peace talks has been the US refusal to approve the transfer of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar, which the Taliban says is necessary for negotiations to proceed.
During his visit, Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a partnership deal that charts a 10-year relationship between the US and Afghanistan once the majority of American and foreign forces pull out of the country in 2014.