Mark Frerichs, an American held captive in Afghanistan for greater than two years, has been launched in a prisoner swap, a senior Biden administration official confirmed Monday.
“Bringing Mark house has been a prime precedence for President Biden and his nationwide safety group,” the official mentioned.
Haji Bashir Noorzai, a distinguished member of the Taliban, who was in jail within the US on drug trafficking prices for 17 years, was granted clemency as a part of the deal, the official mentioned.
Frerichs, a Navy veteran from Illinois, was kidnapped in late January 2020 whereas he was doing building contract work in Afghanistan. He was believed to be held by the Haqqani community, which is a faction of the Taliban. He was lacking for lower than a month earlier than the US signed a peace cope with the Taliban.
Frerichs was capable of stroll on his personal onto the plane, a supply accustomed to the matter mentioned, and his bodily and psychological situation seem good. He’s presently in Doha, Qatar.
Frerichs’ household praised Biden for securing his launch, together with his sister, Charlene Cakora, saying in an announcement, “there have been some people arguing in opposition to the deal that introduced Mark house, however President Biden did what was proper. He saved the lifetime of an harmless American veteran.”
“I’m so completely happy to listen to that my brother is secure and on his manner house to us. Our household has prayed for this every day of the greater than 31 months he has been a hostage,” Cakora mentioned. “We by no means gave up hope that he would survive and are available house safely to us.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed Frerichs’s launch and dedicated to working to free different Individuals “arbitrarily and unjustly” detained overseas.
“Mark’s quickly going to be reunited together with his household,” mentioned Blinken earlier than a Freedom of Expression Roundtable on the UN in New York. “The President had a chance to talk to them just a few hours in the past.”
Blinken mentioned the US will “convey the identical dedication and focus” to releasing different Individuals “arbitrarily and unjustly detained” overseas as was performed for Frerichs.
“I need the households of Individuals who’re being arbitrarily detained or held hostage anyplace on this planet to know that our dedication to them to bringing their family members house is resolute and we’ll relentlessly proceed to concentrate on doing simply that,” Blinken added.
A Taliban spokesman mentioned the swap was secured via a constructive “dialogue” with the US.
“By means of dialogue, understanding and interplay, the liberty of Haji Bashar and the discharge of an American citizen confirmed that good interplay and goodwill is the simplest option to resolve instances,” spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted. “There might be no progress in relations with Afghans via drive and stress, however quite the opposite understanding can do something.”
Earlier this 12 months, The New Yorker revealed a video of Frerichs pleading for his launch – the primary time the Illinois native had been seen in years.
“I’ve been patiently ready my launch,” Frerichs says within the temporary video, which he says is being recorded on November 28, 2021.
Since her brother’s kidnapping, Cakora has called on the US government to do more to secure his release, escalating these calls within the lead-up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
Earlier this 12 months, the Biden administration secured the release of Afghan-American Naval reservist Safi Rauf and his brother Anees Khalil, a US inexperienced card holder, who had been detained by the Taliban since December.
The Biden administration undertook months of negotiations with the Taliban to safe Frerichs’ freedom, a senior administration official mentioned Monday, and the President determined in June to grant clemency to Noorzai if it might result in the captive American’s launch.
Talking on a name with reporters, the official mentioned it turned clear that releasing Noorzai was “the important thing to securing Mark’s overdue freedom,” however the resolution on clemency for the Afghan drug trafficker was a “tough” one.
The administration doesn’t see an equivalency between Noorzai, who was finishing up a 17-year sentence within the US, and Frerichs. Noorzai was not held at Guantanamo Bay, regardless of experiences saying he was, the official mentioned.
“We consulted with specialists throughout the US authorities, who assessed that Noorzai’s (launch) to Afghanistan wouldn’t materially change any threat to Individuals emanating from the nation or the character of the drug commerce there,” the official mentioned.
Weeks after Biden made the choice on Noorzai, the President approved the strike that killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul.
“As we additionally mentioned publicly on the time, we informed the Taliban instantly after the strike, that we might maintain them immediately accountable if any hurt have been to return to Mark, and that one of the best ways they could start to rebuild belief with the USA, with the world, was to instantly launch Mark,” the official mentioned.
The official mentioned the window of alternative for the swap lastly introduced itself this month, and the administration “acted in a short time.” However they’d not say the place Frerichs had been held throughout his greater than two years of captivity, nor would they are saying if the US had given the Taliban the rest for Frerichs’ launch.
A second senior administration official mentioned the US would proceed to clarify to the Taliban that they need to finish hostage taking if they’re to realize recognition by the worldwide group.
The primary official wouldn’t say if the Taliban is holding some other Individuals house. They mentioned they have been conscious of the matter of American filmmaker Ivor Shearer and his producer, who the Committee to Protect Journalists mentioned have been detained by the Taliban in August, however didn’t present additional particulars.
This story has been up to date with extra particulars.