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Will Biden release an Afghan drug lord in exchange for the last American hostage with the Taliban?

The American contractor Mark Frerichs (on the left) who the US President Joe Biden is planning to get released from Taliban in exchange for the the drug lord Bashir Noorzai

The US President Joe Biden has promised to evacuate all Americans. But there is one American who has been kept hostage by the Taliban, Afghanistan’s new rulers.  According to the Daily Mail, the US president Biden is planning to make a swap deal with the Taliban. The US will “release” the Afghan drug lord Bashir Noorzai who is in American prison in exchange for the American contractor Mark Frerichs who is under the “custody” of the Taliban. But before the deal can materialise the Americans want proof that the hostage is alive.

The US contractor Mark Frerichs was abducted  in January last year by a group associated with the dreaded Haqqani network from his work site near the Afghan- Pakistan border. Mark’s family  has been making desperate appeals to the president to pull the necessary strings for his release.

The high flying Afghan drug lord, Bashir Noorzai was arrested in New York in 2005 and sentenced in 2009 to life in prison on drug and conspiracy charges  that he was convicted of importing  $50m (£36m) worth of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the US and other countries. Currently he is  in a federal prison in New Hampshire. At the time of his arrest, Noorzai was on a US government target list of the most powerful and dangerous narcotics traffickers in the world and was nicknamed the Pablo Escobar of the Middle East.

Also Read: CIA Director William Burns and Taliban senior Mullah Baradar’s secret rendezvous in Kabul may mark the end of the Khalilzad era

Noorzai, a Pashtun,  is said to retain extensive political influence among the Noorzai tribe in districts around Kandahar where the Taliban movement was founded. He used opium money to raise a Mujahideen band to fight the Russians during the 1980s and at the same time became close to Mullah Omar. As the Taliban rose to power, they allowed Noorzai to continue his drug smuggling business. According to intelligence sources Bashir Noorzai has close ties in high places, from Pakistan's Inter-Intelligence Services (ISI) and the Haqqani network, which is part of the Taliban.

After the US and Taliban entered the Doha deal last year, the chief of Taliban negotiation team, Mullah Baradar Akhund asked the then  US Secretary of State  Mike Pompeo to release Haji Bashir. The Taliban have subsequently appealed to  Biden  for his release and asked the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to follow up with his administration. After Biden's sudden announcement for withdrawal, the Taliban asked the Biden administration for a trade-off. 

There is now pressure on Biden from the US lawmakers as well.

Also Read: Taliban sentences to death brother of Afghan translator working with US troops

"Securing the safe return of my constituent Mark Frerichs-a U.S. Navy Veteran who may be the only U.S. citizen still being held hostage in Afghanistan-demands a whole-of-government approach that demonstrates our nation's commitment to not leaving any Americans behind in Afghanistan," Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois said in a statement sent to Newsweek magazine.

It's said that in the meeting of the CIA director Burns and the Taliban leader Mullah Baradar, the swap deal too was discussed.

Will the last American hostage  be rescued in a Hollywood style extrication?