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Afghanistan

January 15, 2022

Family of American Held Hostage By Taliban Begs Biden for Help

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.”


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Mark Frerichs, sole American hostage held in Afghanistan, nears third year in captivity

October 29, 2021

DOD confirms over 400 Americans still trapped in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense confirmed that 439 Americans remain in Afghanistan following the U.S.’s military withdrawal in August.

The latest figure comes after Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) found inconsistent or “confusing” numbers that the Biden administration has provided since the withdrawal.

“One of the many confusing things about this whole thing is that we really don’t know how many Americans are left in Afghanistan,” Inhofe said. “The administration’s number of U.S. citizens left in Afghanistan keeps changing. We all understand that. It’s very confusing.”

Last week, the State Department said that 363 Americans remain in Afghanistan, which was an increase over the estimate of roughly 100 the administration put forth in September.

Colin Kahl, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, provided a breakdown of the new, accurate figure.

“In terms of how many American citizens we estimate are currently in Afghanistan, the Department of State is in contact with 196 American citizens who are ready to depart –and arrangements are being made for them to do so, either via air or over ground – and another 243 American citizens have been contacted and are not ready to depart, either because they want to stay in Afghanistan or aren’t ready,” Kahl said.

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Pentagon confirms nearly 450 Americans trapped in Afghanistan

October 4, 2021

Hundreds of Afghanistan evacuees leaving US military bases before resettlement

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan are leaving US military bases before completing the resettlement process.

Reuters found over 700 “independent departures” among Afghan evacuees since they arrived in the US following a tumultuous withdrawal from the country. The report said that officials do not have the authority to keep them against their will, and they’re not breaking any laws by leaving the bases.

“Other individuals who have departed the safe Havens generally had ties to the United States, such as family members or friends, and resources to support themselves as they settled into a new communities,” a DHS spokesperson said.

However, those who left early could be in jeopardy over necessities like expedited work permits.

“It’s a giant can of worms,” a Citizenship and Immigration Services official said. “This could lead to years and years of terrible immigration status problems.”

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DHS: Hundreds of Afghan evacuees are leaving military bases in the US without completing resettlement

September 29, 2021

Biden administration infighting: officials point fingers over Afghanistan botch

Top Pentagon officials pointed fingers at the State Department for not starting civilian evacuations from Afghanistan sooner while referring to the withdrawal as “chaotic” during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan concluded on Aug. 31. Though over 124,000 individuals made it out of Kabul, at least 100 US citizens and thousands of Afghan allies remain in the country.

The House Armed Services Committee pressed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on why evacuations didn’t begin sooner, and he said it was a “State Department call.”

“We certainly would have liked to see it go faster or sooner,” Austin said. “But, again, they had a number of things to think through as well.” 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley later described the evacuation efforts as “chaotic.” Milley emphasized that the “noncombatant evacuation” was not handled by his department.

“That’s a different operation,” Milley said. “And I think, that, in the first two days as we saw, were not only chaotic, but violent and high-risk.”

Milley referred to the 20-year war as a “strategic failure” for the US and warned that the Taliban still poses a threat.

“The Taliban was and remain a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with al Qaeda,” Milley testified. “I have no illusions who we are dealing with.” 

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Pentagon leaders blame State Department for chaotic Afghanistan evacuation of civilians

September 29, 2021

Top generals said they advised leaving some troops in Afghanistan, contradicting Biden’s earlier claim

A few top military officials said Tuesday they advised President Joe Biden that 2,500 troops should remain in Afghanistan, contradicting Biden’s previous claims.

During their congressional testimony, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and head of the US Central Command Gen. Frank McKenzie said they agreed with Gen. Austin Miller’s recommendation that 2,500 troops remain in the country.

“I won’t share my personal recommendation to the president, but I will give you my honest opinion, and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation. I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.

Milley echoed that assessment to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I am required, and the military commanders are required, to give our best military advice, but the decision-makers are not required to follow that advice,” Milley said.

However, Biden said during an interview with ABC News in August following the withdrawal.

“Your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos told Biden in the interview.

“No, they didn’t,” Biden said. “It was split. That wasn’t true.”

“Here’s what I’ve learned so far, number one, the president of the United States lied to the American people about the advice that you gave to him about the military judgment that you provided,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said. “I think you’ve all testified to that effect now repeatedly.”

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Gen. Milley says Biden ignored request to keep some troops in Afghanistan, contradicting earlier Biden claim

September 15, 2021

Army lieutenant colonel resigns over ‘Marxist’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Lt. Col. Paul Douglas Hauge, a 19-year Army veteran, resigned over the Biden administration’s recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate. His resignation letter gained attention on social media after his wife shared it on Twitter.

“I am incapable of subjecting myself to the unlawful, unethical, immoral and tyrannical order to sit still and allow a serum to be injected into my flesh against my will and better judgment,” Hague wrote.

The colonel listed several reasons for his resignation, including a “complete lack of confidence in the presidential administration and secretaries directing the military,” citing the widely-panned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

Another reason Hauge listed as “an ideologically Marxist takeover of the military and United States government at their upper echelons.”

With Hauge’s voluntary separation, he will not be eligible for separation or retirement pay.

September 10, 2021

Defense secretary: the world was ‘hopeful’ the Taliban would be ‘inclusive’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the world was optimistic that the Taliban would form an “inclusive” government, but there isn’t any indication they’re going to follow through.

The Taliban previously claimed that they would aim to have an “open, inclusive Islamic government.”

“You know, I think the whole international community was hopeful that they would be inclusive as they kind of said they would be weeks and months ago, but we’ve not seen evidence of that early on,” Austin said.

The Taliban recently announced its new government members, which consist entirely of men. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new acting interior minister, carries a $10 million bounty from the FBI. The Associated Press reported the belief is that Haqqani is holding at least one American hostage.

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Austin: No evidence Taliban being ‘inclusive,’ says ‘I don’t look favorably’ on wanted terrorist in government

September 9, 2021

Secretary Blinken admits that the Taliban are blocking evacuation flights

Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that the Taliban are preventing evacuation flights out of Afghanistan— an apparent contradiction from his comments a day before where he denied that the extremist group was holding Americans hostage.

“As of now, the Taliban are not permitting the charter flights to depart. They claim that some of the passengers do not have the required documentation,” Blinken said Wednesday. “While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are working to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground.”

The White House came under fire for not doing more to pressure the Taliban to allow flights to depart amid reports that six planes were sitting on the tarmac at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport.

“We are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage life situation in Mazar-i-Sharif,” Blinken had said Tuesday.

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Blinken acknowledges that Taliban are blocking Afghanistan rescue flights

September 8, 2021

Graham says the US will ‘have to’ reinvade Afghanistan

Less than a week after the US finalized its troop withdrawal, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the BBC that America “will be going back to Afghanistan” to deal with terrorist threats.

Graham said the Taliban is “going to give safe haven to al Qaeda, who has ambitions to drive us out of the Mideast writ large and attack us because of our way of life. We will be going back into Afghanistan as we went back into Iraq and Syria.”

“We’ll have to,” Graham said. “We’ll have to because the threat will be so large. It will be a cauldron for radical Islamic behavior.” 

Recent polls indicate a lack of public support for sending troops back to Afghanistan.

A Pew Research Center survey showed 54 percent of Americans supported the decision to withdraw. The same study found that 69 percent thought the US failed to achieve its goals in the war-torn nation.

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Graham says US ‘will be going back’ to Afghanistan

September 8, 2021

Afghanistan evacuees plea for help: ‘We are in some kind of jail’

American veterans groups say several dozen Americans, and a much larger number of green card holders and family members, are being prohibited from leaving Afghanistan.

“We think we are in some kind of jail,” said one Afghan woman in Mazar-e-Sharif. She said elderly American citizens are among those blocked from boarding evacuation planes.

The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, works for a US-based nonprofit that works with Afghan women and girls. She said the Taliban are blocking them from the airport, even though they have valid passports and visas.

“I am scared if they split us and not let us leave,” she said. “If we can’t get out of here, something wrong will happen. And I am afraid of that.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the US was working with the Taliban to reach a resolution.

“We’ve been assured all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave,” Blinken said.

Source:

Evacuees plead for action: ‘We are in some kind of jail’

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