1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Biden calls for Navy veteran to be released from Afghanistan

January 31, 2022

US President Joe Biden said hostage-taking by the Taliban is an act of "cowardice." Meanwhile, the UN accused the fundamentalist group of killing dozens of members and security forces of the former government.

Mark Frerichs
Mark Frerich's family issued a statement urging the US president to bring him homeImage: Courtesy Charlene Cakora/Chicago Tribune/TNS/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden on Sunday called for the release of US Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, saying his release was "not negotiable" if the Taliban regime were to expect any consideration of being recognized as legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.

Frerichs, a civil engineer and contractor from Illinois, was taken hostage two years ago, in January 2020. He is believed to be in the custody of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

Biden made his remarks to mark the second year since Frerich's kidnapping.

What did Biden say?

Biden said in a statement that "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 it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable," Biden added.

Frerich's sister said in a statement she was "grateful" for Biden's remarks, adding what the family "really want is to have Mark home."

"We know the president has options in front of him to make that happen and hope Mark's safe return will become a priority for him personally," she said. 

UN: Taliban engaged in crackdown since takeover

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a report he received "credible allegations" that more than 100 members of the previous US-backed Afghan government, its security forces, and people who worked with international troops have been killed since the Taliban regained control of the country in August last year, the AP news agency reported on Sunday.

The UN report said more than two-thirds of those killings were "extra-judicial killings committed by the de facto authorities or their affiliates," according to the AP.

The report also added that "human rights defenders and media workers continue to come under attack, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and killings." 

Additionally, it detailed a government clampdown on peaceful protests and a lack of access for women and girls to work and education.

"An entire complex social and economic system is shutting down," Guterres wrote in the report.

WFP chief: Situation in Afghanistan 'horrific'

Afghanistan in grips of a humanitarian disaster

Afghanisan's budget used to largely depend on funding from Western countries but that aid dried up after Western troops left the country and seized funding Taliban militants.

Even though charity groups remained in the country to help people, David Beasley, the executive director of the UN's World Food Program, recently told DW News that millions of people were struggling to meet their basic needs. Nearly 23 million people out of 40 million people were on the brink of starvation, and the greatest problems NGO's faced, Beasley said, was funding.

Beasley called on the international community to solve the immediate hunger crisis, but also asked the community to forge a "path forward so that Afghanistan can revitalize this economy and move with its life."

Harsh winter conditions and the pandemic have further exacerbated conditions for Afghans, prompting the United Nations to make its largest-ever appeal, $4.4 billion (€3.9 billion), for humanitarian aid for a single country in early January.

Even though Taliban leaders have sought funding and recognition given the pressures of an unraveling economy, no country has recognized them as legitimate leaders of the country yet.

rm/wd (AP, AFP)