Biden faces phone calls to safe release of US man in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the considers whether it ought to in the coming months, some fear for the fate of an American who could be left behind: an kidnapped contractor thought held by a Taliban-linked militant group.

On the 1-12 months anniversary of Mark Frerichs’ abduction, family members associates and other supporters are urging the Biden administration not to withdraw added troops without the Navy veteran remaining released from captivity. Frerichs was abducted one particular 12 months ago Sunday although working in the place on engineering assignments. U.S. officers believe he is in the custody of the Haqqani network, nevertheless the Taliban have not publicly acknowledged keeping him.

“We are self-confident that he is even now alive and nicely,” his sister, Charlene Cakora, stated in an job interview with The Involved Push. “We don’t have any wondering that he’s useless or that he’s hurt.”

For U.S. diplomats, Frerichs’ captivity is a piece of a substantially larger geopolitical puzzle that aims to harmony bringing troops house, following a two-ten years conflict, with ensuring regional peace and balance. Biden administration officers have manufactured crystal clear that they are reviewing a involving the United States and the Taliban, worried by whether the Taliban are meeting its motivation to lower violence in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration, which experienced designed the launch of hostages and detainees a priority, finished with out getting brought residence Frerichs, who is from Lombard, Illinois. He is just one of a number of People the Biden administration is inheriting obligation for, like journalist Austin Tice, who went lacking in Syria in 2012, as nicely as U.S. Marine Trevor Reed and Michigan corporate govt Paul Whelan, both of whom are imprisoned in Russia.

It is unclear to what extent, if at all, Frerichs’ fate will be complicated by the declining American military existence in Afghanistan fully commited to by the Trump administration. Times before President Joe Biden took business office, the Trump administration announced that it experienced achieved its intention of lessening the range of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500, part of a broader prepare to eliminate all forces by May.

The Biden administration need to figure out how to handle that determination.

New Secretary of Condition Antony Blinken held his to start with call Thursday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and instructed him the administration was reviewing the peace deal. A Point out Section description of the dialogue did not mention Frerichs. Separately, the Pentagon reported the Taliban’s refusal to meet up with commitments to lessen violence in Afghanistan is raising concerns about whether or not all U.S. troops will be equipped to leave by Could.

Frerichs’ supporters are concerned that a drawdown of navy staff from Afghanistan leaves the U.S. with no the leverage it requirements to demand his launch.

“Further troop withdrawals that are not conditioned on the launch of American hostages will very likely make it more difficult to subsequently secure their release,” the two Democratic senators from Illinois, Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, wrote Biden in a letter furnished to the AP.

In an interview, Duckworth reported she wrote Biden and Blinken to strain “that this needs to be a priority, that we need to provide him property.” She stated Lloyd Austin, the new protection secretary, experienced presented assurances that any negotiations about military presence would contain dialogue about detainees “as opposed to us just unilaterally pulling out of there.”

Associates of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which advocates for hostages, informed new national security adviser Jake Sullivan in a conversation throughout the presidential changeover interval about worries that Frerichs and Paul Overby, an American writer who disappeared in Afghanistan in 2014, were not sufficiently prioritized all through discussions with the Taliban, according to the organization’s govt director, Margaux Ewen.

The Condition Division is top to Frerichs’ return.

“American citizen Mark Frerichs has invested a year in captivity. We will not end doing the job until finally we protected his safe and sound return house,” reported Point out Section spokesman Ned Price tag.

Frerichs remains in Afghanistan regardless of a yr of continuous diplomatic negotiations, such as peace talks in November with then-Secretary of Condition Pompeo and Taliban and Afghan negotiators. The U.S. and Taliban signed a peace deal very last February, but a great deal to the family’s annoyance, Frerichs’ return was not produced a predicate for the arrangement even even though he had been kidnapped weeks previously.

“I really don’t want any troops to start out packing up and heading out until finally Mark receives dwelling properly, mainly because I really don’t feel we seriously have a leg to stand on at the time they’re all out of there,” Cakora mentioned. “You don’t depart People at the rear of, and I just actually want to make absolutely sure that he’s house safe.”

Blinken advised reporters Wednesday that the Biden administration desired to consider a in-depth seem at that offer, saying. “We need to understand exactly what is in the agreement” before deciding how to carry on. He explained the administration had requested Trump’s particular envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, to keep on being on the job for continuity’s sake.

In his get in touch with with Ghani the following day, in accordance to the Point out Department, Blinken expressed “robust diplomatic support” for the peace method but stated the U.S. was examining the peace offer to assess no matter if the Taliban had been dwelling up to their motivation to “cut ties with terrorist teams.”

There had been other inside governing administration discussions in the Trump administration.

The Taliban experienced requested for the launch of a combatant imprisoned on drug costs in the U.S. as section a broader hard work to resolve issues with Afghanistan. The ask for prompted dialogue between the Point out Division and the Justice Office about no matter if these a launch could transpire, even though it ultimately did not, in accordance to a human being familiar with the matter who was not approved to talk about the private discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

It is unclear regardless of whether those people discussions will choose up in the new administration.

A Justice Division spokeswoman declined to comment.

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Observe Eric Tucker at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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