Biden to Pardon Afghan Drug Lord in Exchange For The Last American Hostage

Published August 25th, 2021 - 07:08 GMT
US could release an Afghan drug lord to the Taliban
In this file photo taken on July 18, 2021 the leader of the Taliban negotiating team Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar looks on the final declaration of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban presented in Qatar's capital Doha. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)
Highlights
Drug lord, Bashir Noorzai, has been in federal prison for 16 years

The US expressed willingness to release an Afghan drug lord to the Taliban in exchange for their last American hostage - but only if they provide a confirmation of life.

Drug lord Bashir Noorzai, who is a top figure in the Pashtun tribe which elusive Taliban Supreme Commander Hibatullah Akhundzada belongs, has been held in a federal prison for the last 16 years.

He travelled to the US in 2005 under the pretext of diplomatic talks, but upon arrival he was arrested by the DEA for his role in a global heroin trade.

And now, Newsweek reports that President Biden is prepared to swap Noorzai with the Taliban in exchange for Mark Frerichs, who was the last American to be taken hostage by the group.

Frerichs was taken hostage by the Taliban in January last year by a group believed to be associated with the Haqqani network - who are a militia group positioned on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and who are aligned with the Taliban. 

Speaking to the publication, a government official, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'We are eager to explore ways to bring Frerichs back. But these explorations are predicated on receiving a recent proof of life. The bottom line is that any progress moving forward lies in receiving a proof of life.' 

A swap deal involving Frerichs and Noorzai has been welcomed by Charlene Cakora, who is Frerichs' sister.

She said in a statement sent to the publication that although she didn't like the idea of letting Noorzai go, it was worth it to have her brother released.

And she urged President Biden to move quickly to ensure a deal can be struck. 


However, a former senior U.S. official has said that the foundation of any hostage swap is a solid proof of life which is 'itself is sort of its own art form'.

The potential hostage swap comes as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee warned that President Biden is 'unlikely' to meet his August 31 deadline to evacuate US citizens and their allies from Afghanistan.

Adam Schiff made the grim prediction after an intelligence briefing Monday evening, as the Taliban rejected a mooted extension to the withdrawal date.

Schiff said a full evacuation was 'possible' but 'very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIV’s, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders.'

Speaking outside the US Capitol, Schiff continued: 'I am encouraged to see the numbers of people evacuated, increasing readily to the point where we evacuated 11,000 people in a single day,” Schiff continued.

'Nonetheless, given the logistical difficulties of moving people to the airport and the limited number of workarounds, it's hard for me to see that being fully complete by the end of the month. And I'm certainly of the view that we maintain a military presence as long as it's necessary to get all U.S. persons out and to meet our moral and ethical obligation to our Afghan partners.' 

He added: 'Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders women leaders, it's hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month,' he said.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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