Headline RoundupSeptember 19th, 2022

Taliban Frees US Contractor in Exchange for Drug Trafficker

AllSides Summary

An American contractor held captive in Afghanistan for over two years has been released in exchange for a convicted drug lord jailed in the United States.

The White House said Monday that U.S. contractor Mark Frerichs had been freed and returned to the U.S. in exchange for Bashir Noorzai, who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 2005 and has ties to the Taliban. Frerichs was working as an engineer in Afghanistan when he was abducted by a Taliban-linked terrorist network in 2020. Noorzai was convicted of smuggling more than $50 million worth of heroin into the U.S. and Europe, and had served 17 years until his release.

The move marks a rare agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan since the militant group took power a little more than a year ago. In April, the U.S. negotiated with Russia to free former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, and talks between the U.S. and Russia continue regarding athlete Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, who remain jailed in Russia.

The news was covered by sources across the political spectrum. Many highlighted Noorzai's crimes and connection to the Taliban.

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