Jan 30, 2022 - World

Biden: Taliban won't be recognized until U.S. hostage Mark Frerichs is released

Taliban fighter
Taliban fighter in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden issued a statement on Sunday stressing that the Taliban must release U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan two years ago, "before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy."

Why it matters: Frerichs, a civil engineering contractor who had been working in Kabul for a decade before his disappearance, is the last American known to be held hostage in Afghanistan.

  • Shortly after Frerichs' kidnapping in January 2020, the Trump administration signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that paved the way for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban have reportedly offered to free Frerichs in exchange for the release of Afghan drug kingpin Bashir Noorzai, who is serving out a life sentence in the U.S.

Driving the news: Biden's statement — one of few references he's made to U.S. hostages since taking office — came days after Frerichs' sister wrote a Washington Post op-ed calling on the president to accept the Noorzai trade.

  • Charlene Cakora claimed that Biden's top aides are aware of the proposal, but that the president himself has not taken a stance on it.
  • "For us, it is simple: The U.S. government either makes this trade or it doesn’t save my brother's life. Every day we don’t bring Mark home is another day he remains in danger," Cakora wrote.

What they're saying: "Threatening the safety of Americans or any innocent civilians is always unacceptable, and hostage-taking is an act of particular cruelty and cowardice," Biden said in his statement.

  • "The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable."
  • "To Mark, and to all the Americans being held hostage and wrongfully detained overseas, and to all their families and friends who are enduring the nightmare of their absence: know that my administration will continue to work steadfastly until every American being unjustly held against their will comes home."

The latest: Cakora issued a statement on Sunday afternoon thanking Biden for his "forceful recognition of Mark’s two years in Taliban custody," while reiterating that the president "has options in front of him" to bring Frerichs home.

Go deeper: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

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