The US hails the discharge of navy veteran Mark Frerichs by Afghanistan, exchanged for convicted drug trafficker Bashir Noorzai.
Washington, DC – America has freed a convicted Afghan druglord imprisoned within the US in a prisoner swap with the Taliban that noticed the discharge of a US Navy veteran held in Afghanistan since 2020.
US President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the discharge of Mark Frerichs, who was kidnapped whereas working as a civil engineer in Afghanistan.
However he acknowledged that the deal “required tough choices”, referring to the discharge of Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban ally who was serving a life sentence in a US jail on drug prices.
The prisoner change comes greater than a 12 months after the Taliban took over the Afghan capital amid the withdrawal of US troops in August 2021.
Washington has not recognised the Taliban authorities. However on Monday, officers in each nations mentioned the prisoner swap was the results of prolonged negotiations, suggesting that communication channels between the Biden administration and the Taliban are open.
Right here, Al Jazeera takes a take a look at who Frerichs and Noorzai are, and the efforts that led to their launch.
- Noorzai, often known as Hajji Bashir, is a tribal chief in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.
- In accordance with the US authorities, he owned poppy fields and laboratories for the manufacturing of heroin and oversaw a worldwide drug operation. US officers have described him because the “Pablo Escobar of heroin trafficking in Asia”, evaluating him to an notorious Colombian druglord.
- Noorzai was accused of getting shut private ties with the Taliban’s late co-founder Mullah Omar. US prosecutors say he financially supported the Taliban in change for permitting his drug enterprise to proceed.
- He was arrested in 2005 within the US, the place his legal professionals mentioned he deliberate to speak with federal officers. It isn’t clear in what capability he was speaking with US authorities at the moment.
- In 2008, Noorzai was convicted of drug-related conspiracy prices. A 12 months later, he was sentenced to life in jail.
- “Bashir Noorzai’s worldwide narcotics community supported a Taliban regime that made Afghanistan a breeding floor for worldwide terrorism, a legacy that continues to destabilize the area,” a US Justice Division official mentioned in a press release at the moment. “In the present day’s sentence definitively places an finish to Noorzai’s lengthy felony profession.”
- Noorzai’s legal professionals have denied the allegations in opposition to him, arguing that he was lured into the US on the promise that he wouldn’t be arrested.
- Frerichs, 60, is a navy veteran and civil engineer who labored as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan till he was kidnapped in Khost province, southeast of Kabul, in early 2020.
- Whereas the circumstances of his kidnapping stay unclear, unidentified US officers have informed information shops that they imagine he was kidnapped by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Community.
- The Related Press information company reported in 2020 that US forces performed a failed rescue operation to free Frerichs that 12 months.
- In a video filmed late in 2021 and made public in April, Frerichs pleaded for his launch, saying he wished to be reunited along with his household. “I’d prefer to ask the management of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, please, launch me,” he mentioned.
- Frerichs’s household known as on the Biden administration earlier this 12 months to free Noorzai – a recognized key demand of the Taliban – to safe the US Navy veteran’s launch.
- “I perceive Noorzai is a convicted felony … However I do know we’ve held him for greater than 16 years and that others who’ve achieved so much worse have been despatched house. It’s regular for prisoners to be returned after wars finish,” Frerichs’s sister Charlene Cakora wrote within the Washington Publish in January.
- Lawmakers from Frerichs’s house state of Illinois had additionally urged Biden to “push on each affordable lever” to make sure his launch. Frerichs is from Lombard, a city close to Chicago.
- Frerichs’s household defended the prisoner swap deal on Monday. “My brother is alive and secure as a result of President Biden took motion. There have been some of us arguing in opposition to the deal that introduced Mark house, however President Biden did what was proper. He saved the lifetime of an harmless American veteran,” Cakora mentioned in a press release, as reported by a number of US information shops.
Mark Frerichs is coming house after two and half years in captivity in Afghanistan. Thanks to our diplomats, nationwide safety professionals, and companions in Qatar on your work to safe his launch.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 19, 2022