President Joe Biden released a statement regarding US Navy veteran and civil engineer Mark Randall Frerichs, calling for his release by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network when he was taken hostage nearly two years ago in the Khost province of Afghanistan.

Mark Frerichs posing for a photo in Iraq (Associated Press via The Guardian). Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/30/joe-biden-demands-release-mark-frerichs-taliban-hostage
Mark Frerichs posing for a photo in Iraq (Associated Press via The Guardian)

The Lombard, Illinois native Frerichs, now 59, is a seasoned contractor who worked multiple conflict zones in the past decades when he was allegedly kidnapped by the Haqqani network two years ago. He was said to be taken a month before the 2020 US withdrawal deal. The terrorist organization, which Jalaluddin Haqqani founded, is a Sunni Islamist militant organization that gained traction during the anti-Soviet war.

Known to be associated with Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the group has is notorious for high-profile attacks during the Afghan war, including the attacks on the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel and assaulting the US Embassy in Kabul. Many of these attacks were made in coordination with the Taliban, who have now taken control of Afghanistan since the US pullout last August. Biden met criticism from both the Republican and Democrat camps for the manner of the withdrawal.

Biden called for the immediate release of Frerichs, stating that Mark had dedicated a decade of his life helping the people of Afghanistan through his construction work. Frerichs, a contractor for the International Logistical Support, had been known to be a passionate worker during his time around conflict-ridden places. Biden reiterated that his release was “non-negotiable” and that hostage-taking is an act of cowardice.

Mark Frerichs with Afghan children in 2014 (Charlene Cakora via The Wall Street Journal)

“Threatening the safety of Americans or any innocent civilians is always unacceptable, and hostage-taking is an act of particular cruelty and cowardice. The Taliban must immediately release Mark before expecting any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable,” said Biden in a press release.

Critics had claimed that the Trump administration did not acted forcefully enough when it came to gaining Mark’s release.  Mark’s father, Art Frerichs, can be remembered by calling for former US President Donald Trump to help their family rescue Mark from the Haqqani, stating that:

“I just need them to tell their people negotiating with the Taliban that America won’t lift a finger until my son comes home. He’s a veteran. This is America. We don’t leave people behind,” said the elder Frerichs.

Today, Mark’s sister, Charlene Cakora, stated that she was very grateful for Biden’s new call and commitment to get her brother home. She went on to say that the only thing their family wants is to see Mark back home and alive and that Biden makes the return a personal priority.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden’s message through a Twitter post:

The Taliban and the Haqqani had denied any involvement with the kidnappings, with Taliban spokesperson Shail Shaheen stating that they did not have any information regarding Frerichs.

Rep. Michael Waltz, a combat decorated Green Beret and first Green Beret elected to congress, weighed in on the issue last June when he said that the US exits from Afghanistan leaves Biden’s administration with few options to free Frerichs. Furthermore, he also acknowledged that it might be necessary to swap out Hajji Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan drug-trafficker, for Mark but also admitted that he opposes this.

A rescue operation is unlikely as US Special Operation forces no longer operate in Afghanistan(at least not officially and with the resources available to them in past years).

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