The Taliban freed the last U.S. prisoner being held hostage in Afghanistan on Monday as part of a prisoner swap with the U.S. government.
March Frerichs, a U.S. Navy veteran and engineer, was first abducted by the Taliban from Kabul in 2020 while working as a contractor. His freedom came in exchange for the release of Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban member convicted in 2008 of running an expansive heroin smuggling operation.
President Joe Biden commuted Noorzai’s sentence and the exchange took place at the airport in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.
The Taliban had long denied responsibility for Frerich’s abduction, but the group was able to produce him for the exchange.
The exchange comes as the U.S. and the Taliban continue to negotiate the return of billions of dollars worth of frozen assets to the country. The funds had belonged to the now-defunct U.S.-backed government of Afghanistan, which fell to the Taliban last year.
The Biden administration and the United Nations are working to release the funds in an effort to stabilize the Afghan economy, which has all but collapsed under Taliban rule and Western sanctions. Humanitarian organizations have warned that the Afghan people may face hunger in the impending winter.
The U.S. seeks to avoid sending funds directly to the Taliban by setting up a Swiss trust fund that would control the funds and distribute them for humanitarian needs. Nonprofits warned earlier this year that much of U.S. aid to Afghanistan was going directly to the Taliban.