BIDEN ASKED TO SECURE FREEDOM OF U.S. CITIZEN HELD IN AFGHANISTAN
As the Biden administration considers whether it should pull remaining US troops out of Afghanistan in the coming months, some fear for the fate of an American who could be left behind: an abducted contractor believed held by a Taliban-linked militant group, Eric Tucker reported for the Associated Press (AP).
On the first anniversary of Mark Frerichs’ abduction, family members and other supporters are urging the Biden administration not to withdraw additional troops without the Navy veteran being released from captivity.
Frerichs was abducted one year ago Sunday while working in the country on engineering projects.
US officials believe he is in the custody of the Heraqqani network, though the Taliban have not publicly acknowledged holding him.
“We are confident that he’s still alive and well,” his sister, Charlene Cakora, said in an interview with AP. “We don’t have any thinking that he’s dead or that he’s injured.”
For US diplomats, Frerichs’ captivity is a piece of a much larger geopolitical puzzle that aims to balance bringing troops home, after a two-decade conflict, with ensuring regional peace and stability.
Biden administration officials have made clear that they are reviewing a February 2020 peace deal between the United States and the Taliban, concerned by whether the Taliban are meeting its commitment to reduce violence in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration, which had made the release of hostages and detainees a priority, ended without having brought home Frerichs, who is from Lombard, Illinois.
He is one of several Americans the Biden administration is inheriting responsibility for, including journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012, as well as US Marine Trevor Reed and Michigan corporate executive Paul Whelan, both of whom are imprisoned in Russia.