By ERIC TUCKER, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – As the Biden administration considers whether the remaining US troops should be driven out of Afghanistan in the coming months, some fears for the fate of an American who may be left behind: a kidnapped by a Taliban-linked terrorist The contractor believes that the group.
On the one-year anniversary of the abduction of Mark Frerichs, family members and other supporters are urging the Biden administration not to withdraw additional troops without freeing the naval veteran from captivity. Fritch was kidnapped on Sunday a year ago while working in the country on engineering projects. US officials believe he is in the custody of the Haqqani network, although the Taliban has not publicly acknowledged his capture.
“We believe she is still alive and well,” her sister, Charlene Kakora, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have no idea whether he died or that he was injured.”
For US diplomats, Fryrich’s captivity is a piece of a much larger geopolitical puzzle that aims to bring troops home after two decades of conflict, while ensuring regional peace and stability. Officials of the Biden administration have clarified that they are reviewing the February 2020 peace deal between the United States and the Taliban in relation to whether the Taliban are fulfilling their commitment to reduce violence in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration, which prioritized the release of hostages and detainees, ended without bringing home Frerichs, who hails from Lombard, Illinois. He is one of several Americans for whom the Biden administration is responsible, including journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012, along with US Marine Trevor Reid and Michigan corporate executive Paul Whelan, both imprisoned in Russia Huh.
It is unclear if the decline of the US military presence in Afghanistan committed by the Trump administration would complicate Frerich’s fate at all. A few days before President Joe Biden took office, the Trump administration announced that it had met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to around 2,500, part of a broader plan to remove all forces by May.
The Biden administration should determine how to handle that commitment.
The new foreign minister, Antony Blinken, held talks for the first time with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday and told him that the administration was reviewing the peace deal. A State Department of Conversation did not mention Frerichs. Separately, the Pentagon said the Taliban’s refusal to fulfill commitments to reduce violence in Afghanistan raises questions about whether all US troops will be able to leave by May.
Fritch’s supporters are concerned that a shortage of military personnel from Afghanistan leaves the US, without the leverage it needs to demand his release.
Two Democratic senators from Illinois, Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, further stated in a letter provided to the AP, “There is no possibility of a conditional withdrawal upon the release of the American hostages, which will likely secure their release later.”
In an interview, Duckworth said he wrote to Biden and Blinken to stress “that it should be a priority, that we need to bring him home.” He said that the new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, had assured that any conversation about the military presence would include a discussion about detainees “as opposed to us.”
Representatives of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which advocates hostages, told new national security adviser Jake Sullivan about concerns during a conversation during the presidential transition period that Frerich and Paul, an American writer, were involved in Afghanistan in 2014 Overby had vanished. According to the organization’s executive director, Marga Ewen, it was adequately prioritized during discussions with the Taliban.
The State Department is offering $ 5 million for notice of Fritch’s return.
“US citizen Mark Frerich has spent a year in captivity. We will not stop working until we return home safely, ”said Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department.
Despite a year of steady diplomatic negotiations, Afghanistan continues to have a fringe, including the then Secretary of State Pompeo and peace talks with Taliban and Afghan negotiators. The US and the Taliban signed a peace deal last February, but to the family’s frustration, Frerichs’ return was not made a predicate for the settlement, even if he had been abducted weeks earlier.
Kakora said, “I don’t want any soldiers to start packing until Mark gets home safely, because I don’t think we have a place to put a leg to get out of there.” is.” “You don’t leave Americans behind, and I really want to make sure that that house is safe.”
Blinken told reporters Wednesday that the Biden administration wanted to take a detailed look at the deal. “We need to understand what’s next in the agreement” before deciding to move forward. He said the administration had asked Trump’s special envoy Afghanistan Zalme Khalilzad to remain on task for continuity.
According to the State Department, the following day, in his call with Ghani, Blinken expressed “strong diplomatic support” for the peace process, but said the US was reviewing the peace deal to see if the Taliban lived up to its commitment to a cut Were staying. With terrorist groups. “
There were other internal government discussions in the Trump administration.
The Taliban called for the release of a fighter imprisoned on drug charges in the US as part of a broader effort to resolve issues with Afghanistan. The request prompted a dialogue between the State Department and the Department of Justice about whether such a release could occur, although it ultimately did not, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss private discussions and name. Talked on condition of printing.
It is unclear whether those conversations will be taken up in the new administration.
A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment.
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