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Today, Taliban leaders are believed to be split on the question of talks, with some favoring negotiations and others opting for continuing the war.

Waheed Mazhda, a political analyst and former Taliban member, said that Pakistan is playing a double game with Kabul, pretending to support negotiations but releasing the Taliban prisoners to please the Pakistan’s branch of the Taliban, not Kabul. The Pakistan government, he says, does not want its homegrown militants to disrupt upcoming elections.

“Where are they? What are they doing right now?” he said, referring to the 18 already released. He said that he did not believe those released favored negotiations.

The Afghan peace process has made little headway since it began several years ago, riddled by mistrust among the major players, including the United States.

• Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon, Rebecca Santana and Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed to this article.