American held captive in Afghanistan for greater than 2 years is launched in prisoner swap | CNN Politics


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 residence has been a prime precedence for President Biden and his nationwide safety staff,” the official mentioned.

Haji Bashir Noorzai, a outstanding 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 development 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 conversant in the matter mentioned, and his bodily and psychological situation seem good. He’s at the moment in Doha, Qatar.

Frerichs’ household praised Biden for securing his launch, together with his sister, Charlene Cakora, saying in a press release, “there have been some people arguing towards the deal that introduced Mark residence, however President Biden did what was proper. He saved the lifetime of an harmless American veteran.”

“I’m so joyful to listen to that my brother is protected and on his manner residence 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 residence 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 a couple of hours in the past.”

Blinken mentioned the US will “convey the identical dedication and focus” to liberating different Individuals “arbitrarily and unjustly detained” overseas as was executed for Frerichs.

“I need the households of Individuals who’re being arbitrarily detained or held hostage wherever on the planet to know that our dedication to them to bringing their family members house is resolute and we are going to relentlessly proceed to give attention to doing simply that,” Blinken added.

A Taliban spokesman mentioned the swap was secured by way of a constructive “dialogue” with the US.

“Via dialogue, understanding and interplay, the liberty of Haji Bashar and the discharge of an American citizen confirmed that good interplay and goodwill is the best technique to resolve instances,” spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted. “There may be no progress in relations with Afghans by way of power and strain, however quite the opposite understanding can do something.”

Earlier this 12 months, The New Yorker printed 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 transient video, which he says is being recorded on November 28, 2021.

Since her brother’s kidnapping, Cakora has known as on the US authorities to do extra to safe his launch, escalating these calls within the lead-up to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Earlier this 12 months, the Biden administration secured the discharge 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 could 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 determination 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 studies saying he was, the official mentioned.

“We consulted with consultants throughout the US authorities, who assessed that Noorzai’s (launch) to Afghanistan wouldn’t materially change any danger 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 licensed 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 instantly accountable if any hurt have been to come back to Mark, and that one of the best ways they may start to rebuild belief with the USA, with the world, was to right away 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 might 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 achieve recognition by the worldwide group.

The primary official wouldn’t say if the Taliban is holding some other Individuals residence. They mentioned they have been conscious of the matter of American filmmaker Ivor Shearer and his producer, who the Committee to Defend 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.

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