The trade is among the most important prisoner swaps to happen below the Biden administration, coming five months after a separate deal with Russia that resulted within the launch of Marine veteran Trevor Reed. It came about regardless of considerations from his household and different advocates that the U.S. navy departure from Afghanistan, and the collapse of the federal government there, might make it tougher to convey him residence and will deflect consideration away from his imprisonment.
President Joe Biden, who’s within the U.Okay. to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, referred to as Frerichs’s household on Monday morning to share the “excellent news” that his administration was in a position to safe his launch, in keeping with a senior administration official.
The official, who was not licensed to remark publicly and spoke on the situation of anonymity, referred to as the choice to grant Noorzai clemency a “troublesome choice” however vital with a purpose to reunite a U.S. citizen together with his household.
A sister of Frerichs, who’s from Lombard, Illinois, thanked U.S. authorities officers who helped safe her brother’s launch.
“I’m so completely happy to listen to that my brother is secure and on his method residence to us. Our household has prayed for this every day of the greater than 31 months he has been a hostage. We by no means gave up hope that he would survive and are available residence safely to us,” mentioned an announcement from the sister, Charlene Cakora.
In Afghanistan, Noorzai informed reporters at a press convention that he had been launched from an unspecified U.S. jail and handed over earlier within the day to the Taliban in Kabul, in trade for an American prisoner held in Afghanistan whom he didn’t establish. Frerichs’ household subsequently confirmed that it was him.
Frerichs, 60, had been engaged on civil engineering initiatives on the time of his Jan. 31, 2020 abduction in Kabul. He was last seen in a video posted last spring by The New Yorker i n which he appeared in conventional Afghan clothes and pleaded for his launch. The publication mentioned it obtained the clip from an unidentified particular person in Afghanistan.
Till Monday, U.S. officers throughout two presidential administrations had tried unsuccessfully to get him residence. Even earlier than their takeover of Afghanistan in August final 12 months, the Taliban had demanded the U.S. launch Noorzai in trade for Frerichs. However there had been no public signal of Washington continuing with any kind of commerce or trade alongside these traces.
Eric Lebson, a former U.S. authorities nationwide safety official who had been advising Frerichs’ household, mentioned in an announcement that “every part about this case has been an uphill battle.” He criticized the Trump administration for having given away “our leverage to get Mark residence rapidly by signing a peace accord with the Taliban with out ever having requested them to return Mark first.
“Mark’s household then needed to navigate two Administrations, the place many individuals seen Mark’s secure return as an obstacle to their plans for Afghanistan,” the assertion mentioned.
The collapse of the Western-backed Afghan authorities and takeover by the Taliban in August 2021, raised further concern that any progress in negotiations may very well be undone or that Frerichs may very well be forgotten.
However his identify surfaced final month when President Joe Biden, who had publicly referred to as for Frerichs’ launch, was mentioned by his advisers to have pressed officers to think about any danger posed to Frerichs by the drone strike in Afghanistan that killed al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri.
The Taliban-appointed overseas minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, additionally spoke on the Kabul press convention alongside Noorzai and welcomed the trade, saying it marked the beginning of a “new period” in U.S.-Taliban relations.
“This is usually a new chapter between Afghanistan and the USA, this could open a brand new door for talks between each nations,” Muttaqi mentioned on the presser.
“This act reveals us that every one issues will be solved via talks and I thank either side’ groups who labored so onerous for this to occur,” he added.
The Taliban additionally posted a quick video Monday on social media exhibiting Noorzai’s arrival on the Kabul airport the place he was welcomed by high Taliban officers, together with Muttaqi.
On the press convention, Noorzai expressed thankfulness at seeing his “mujahedeen brothers” — a reference to the Taliban — in Kabul.
“I pray for extra success of the Taliban,” he added. “I hope this trade can result in peace between Afghanistan and America, as a result of an American was launched and I’m additionally free now.”