The family of the sole American hostage being held in Afghanistan by the Taliban is desperate for help.
According to the Washington Examiner, “the Taliban have been saying for more than a year that they are willing to negotiate [Mark Frerichs’] release and were on board for a prisoner swap. The Biden administration hasn’t bitten, though similar deals were made during the Obama and Trump administrations.”
A civil engineer and former member of the U.S. Navy, Frerichs worked as a contractor for a decade overseas before he was abducted in Kabul on January 31, 2020.
According to the Examiner, the Taliban has said they’re willing to free Frerichs if the U.S. releases Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan drug lord serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for smuggling $50 million of heroin into the country.
Frerichs’ sister, Charlene Cakora, told the outlet she wants the government to make the deal and bring her brother home but has hit a wall, first with the Trump administration and now with the Biden administration.
“Three months before Frerichs’s kidnapping, former President Donald Trump approved a controversial prisoner swap that sparked protests internationally. The Haqqanis released two American University professors, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks, who were taken at gunpoint in Kabul in August 2016, as well as 10 Afghan soldiers. In exchange, and under pressure from the State Department, the Afghan government released three high-ranking Haqqani commanders who had a disturbing history of carrying out car bombings and assassinations,” the Washington Examiner reported.
Cakora told the outlet she thought the Trump administration would negotiate with the Taliban for her brother’s release, but instead, it repeatedly ignored the family’s requests, shut it out of conversations, and then finally just said no.
Then a month after her brother’s kidnapping, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Afghanistan’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Taliban negotiators to formalize the agreement to withdraw the U.S. military. They eventually reached a deal on February 29, 2020, which included feeding up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan. There wasn’t any mention of the only known U.S. hostage still being held captive in Afghanistan.
Cakora said the situation had taken a massive toll on their family. So far, there hasn’t been any indication of help from President Joe Biden.
“In late June, then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was pressed by reporters to comment on Frerichs’s kidnapping. He said his government would do what it could to help but admitted the topic never came up during his meeting with [Biden] at the White House,” the outlet reported.
The U.S. failed to utilize one of the last times it had leverage to demand Frerichs’ release: during the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The State Department told the outlet it had been in regular contact with the family, though it didn’t say “what, if anything,” it’s doing to bring Frerichs home.
“The families of Americans held captive abroad can face incredible hardships as they tirelessly advocate for their loved ones,” the department told the outlet in an emailed statement. “We remain in regular contact with families, including the family of Mark Frerichs. We are grateful for their partnership and feedback, and we work to ensure that we are sharing information in a way that is helpful.”
The email added: “The safe and immediate release of U.S. citizen and Navy veteran Mark Frerichs is imperative. We have made that clear to the Taliban. As the Taliban seek legitimacy, they cannot continue to hold a U.S. citizen hostage. The Taliban must immediately release Mark Frerichs.”