Biden: US Prisoner Swap Required 'Difficult Decisions'

US frees Afghan drug lord in exchange for American Mark Frerichs
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2022 8:22 AM CDT
Updated Sep 19, 2022 9:17 AM CDT
Taliban Frees US Hostage for Afghan Detainee
In this undated photo, Mark Frerichs, a contractor from Illinois, poses in Iraq.   (Twitter via AP)

Update: The White House acknowledged and hailed the release of American hostage Mark Frerichs from Afghanistan on Monday. "Bringing the negotiations that led to Mark’s freedom to a successful resolution required difficult decisions, which I did not take lightly," said President Biden in a statement, per USA Today. The US swapped Frerichs for a Taliban-affiliated drug lord who had been imprisoned in the US since 2005. Biden added that he had spoken to Frerichs' sister, and he pledged that the US would continue trying to free other "wrongfully detained" Americans abroad, a group that would include Brittney Griner. Our story from earlier Monday follows:

An American hostage held in Afghanistan for more than two years is going home. The Taliban on Monday freed Mark Frerichs, a 60-year-old civilian contractor from Illinois who was abducted in early 2020, reports Reuters. In exchange, the US freed Bashir Noorzai, described by the Washington Post as a "warlord and drug trafficker with ties to the Taliban." Noorzai had been imprisoned in the US since 2005 as a heroin smuggler. “I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us," said Frerichs' sister, Charlene Cakora, in a statement released by Camden Advisory Group, which had been pushing for his release. “Our family has prayed for this each day."

Hope for Frerichs' freedom waned after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan because the US has not formally recognized the new Taliban government. "This can be a new chapter between Afghanistan and the United States," said the Taliban-appointed foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi. "This can open a new door for talks between both countries." The US government did not immediately comment on the swap, but senior officials have confirmed to news outlets that it took place. Frerichs had been doing construction work in Afghanistan when he was abducted in January 2020, likely by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, per CNN. (Read more hostage stories.)

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