Biden calls for Taliban to release American hostage before legitimacy recognized
President Biden on Sunday called for the release of American hostage Mark Frerichs ahead of the two-year anniversary of his abduction if the Taliban expects to be recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
“Two years ago tomorrow, U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs was taken hostage in Afghanistan. A civil engineer, he spent a decade helping the people of Afghanistan. He has done nothing wrong. And yet, for two years the Taliban has held him captive,” Biden said in a statement.
“Threatening the safety of Americans or any innocent civilians is always unacceptable, and hostage-taking is an act of particular cruelty and cowardice,” he said. “The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable.”
Frerichs, a U.S. Navy Veteran, was abducted in February 2020. He had worked as an engineer for a decade in Afghanistan on development projects. The State Department is currently offering a reward of up to $5 million for information that leads to the location, recovery and return of Frerichs.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden’s call on Sunday, saying in a statement, “We call on the Taliban to release him. We will continue working to bring him home.”
Frerichs’s sister, Charlene Cakora, said in an interview published on Saturday by The Daily Herald in their native Illinois that her family has recently spoken to Roger Carstens, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department.
“We know he is trying to get Mark home, but this is a decision that has to be made at the top,” said Cakora. “They want to trade Mark for one of their guys who has been in U.S. prison for 17 years.”
According to Cakora, Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and Tammy Duckworth (D) have also provided “excellent support” and have worked to make “make Mark a priority.”
“The worst part is worrying if Mark has enough to eat, if he is healthy and safe in the middle of a pandemic, if he has warm clothes,” she added. “We wish we could speak with him, but the Taliban doesn’t want anything from us. They want something from the U.S. government, and we need our government to act on this.”