A statement by President Joe Biden stated that an American contractor, who was held hostage by Taliban in Afghanistan since 2020, has been released following a negotiation.
Mark Frerichs (a U.S. Navy veteran, civilian contractor) was abducted in Kabul two year ago. It was believed that he was being held captive by the Taliban linked Haqqani network. According to The Washington Post
Frerichs was released as part of a prisoner exchange for Bashir Noorzai (a Taliban drug lord), who had been in U.S. government custody since 1997.
“His release is the culmination of years of tireless work by dedicated public servants across our government and other partner governments, and I want to thank them for all that effort,” Biden made the statement in a statement.
Frerichs’ sister, Charlene Cakora, of Lombard, Illinois, had been in communication with the Biden administration and was thankful for the release of her brother. Cakora said in a statement, “I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day of the more than 31 months he has been a hostage. We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us,” According to The New York Post.
Noorzai was sentenced to life after being convicted of smuggling heroin worth $50 million from Afghanistan and Pakistan into America in 2005.
Biden stated that the decision to free Noorzai in return for Frerichs was made. “difficult,”According to the statement.
Noorzai stated to reporters in Kabul that Noorzai had been released from an American prison. Officials from the Taliban said that Noorzai was being held at Guantanamo, a Guantanamo Bay detention center.
According to The Washington Post, negotiations about Frerichs’ release had been part of the ongoing conversations between the U.S. and Taliban officials in Qatar, revolving around removing American troops from Afghanistan.
Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s acting foreign minister, said at a news conference that the swap of the two men happened at the airport in Kabul, the New York Post reported. Muttaqi claimed during the Kabul press conference, that the prisoner exchanging marked a “new era”According to the outlet:
“This can be a new chapter between Afghanistan and the United States, this can open a new door for talks between both countries,”Muttaqi stated. “This act shows us that all problems can be solved through talks and I thank both sides’ teams who worked so hard for this to happen.”