Resuelta Hope dims for American hostage as US hastily exits Afghanistan

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Hope dims for American hostage as US hastily exits Afghanistan

https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/mark-frerichs-ht-jc-210616_1623882444825_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg

The family of Mark Frerichs fears time is running out to secure his release.

The Illinois family of a U.S. Navy veteran who has been held hostage by the Taliban has said for the past year that he might get left behind by his own country. With the accelerated and chaotic exit from Afghanistan by America's remaining military forces, their worst fears may be realized.

Once American military and special operations personnel have left Afghanistan -- which some officials anticipate will happen by July Fourth -- experts say the U.S. will lose most of whatever leverage it might have to free civil engineer Mark Frerichs through one of the limited number of tracks the government has already contemplated or acted upon during his 17 months of captivity.

Frerichs, 58, from Lombard, Illinois, was kidnapped in January 2020 in the capital city of Kabul after being lured to a business meeting that was a ruse, officials have told ABC News. Officials believe he is being held by the Taliban's Haqqani network, which has kidnapped other American and British citizens for ransom or prisoner swaps over the course of the two-decade war.

Critics say the Trump administration was slow to raise Frerichs' captivity last year with Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar, during negotiations to end the long war which followed the 9/11 attacks. U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-American diplomat, did not publicly mention Frerichs until months after he had forged a pact to withdraw U.S. military forces, which was signed just a few weeks after the U.S. citizen's abduction. pg slot

The options that have been considered for freeing Frerichs include trying to arrange a controversial prisoner exchange involving an Afghan druglord, encouraging Pakistan to influence the captor network, or staging a high-risk rescue operation if Frerichs can be located, numerous officials told ABC News in recent weeks on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters.

Hope has dimmed this year for the first option, which would involve President Joe Biden issuing the commutation and release of convicted Afghan drug trafficker Hajji Bashir Noorzai after serving 16 years of his two life sentences. Taliban officials have requested Noorzai's release numerous times over the years, including during negotiations since 2020 to end the U.S.-led war, though never specifically promising Frerichs' freedom in exchange.

Since Frerichs' location is unknown and U.S. special mission units' presence in Afghanistan is all but gone, the hostage-rescue option is seen as even less likely than Biden commuting Noorzai's prison sentence.

A key U.S. special operations air base in Jalalabad, Eastern Afghanistan -- where U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011 launched their raid over the border to Abbottabad, Pakistan, to kill Osama Bin Laden and where other SEALs launched raids in Afghanistan last year to attempt a rescue of Frerichs -- closed a month ago.
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