Dr Srinjoy Bose, an expert in Middle East studies at UNSW Sydney, is available to comment on the Afghan release of 400 soldiers as a condition of peace talks with the Taliban.

The Afghan government’s release of 400 “hard core” Taliban prisoners is devastating news for the families of three Australian soldiers slain by former Afghan soldier Hekmatullah, says UNSW’s Dr Srinjoy Bose.

Hekmatullah murdered Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Private Robert Poate and Sapper James Martin while playing cards at their base in Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province in 2012. Hekmatullah was serving as a sergeant in the Afghan National Army at the time.

“To watch the killer of their children walk free after only seven years in prison is going to be devastating for them,” says Dr Bose, an expert in Middle East studies at UNSW Arts & Social Sciences.

Dr Bose says Hekmatullah is likely to be among the 400 “hard core” prisoners the Taliban wants freed as a precondition for peace talks with the Afghan Government.

“In total 5,000 are to be released before talks can begin,” Dr Bose says.

Afghan President Ghani has agreed to the release, likely under pressure from the US administration who are eager to exit Afghanistan, he says.

“Many on this list are responsible for heinous terror-related crimes that have claimed the lives of scores of Afghan civilians and foreigners. These include the 2018 attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul that killed 40 people, and the 2017 truck bomb attack in Kabul that killed over 100.”

Dr Bose says, “Hekmatullah has not only confessed to the killings, but has also stated he would do it again. The Australian administration has since been lobbying the Afghan government against his release.”

“Hekmatullah was responsible for murdering three Australians, and our position is that he should never be released,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. “We do not believe that his release adds to peace in this region.”