WASHINGTON: The United States has raised the release of US Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, who was taken hostage in Afghanistan nearly two years ago, in every meeting with the Taliban , said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Sunday (local time), adding that the legitimacy the Taliban seek is impossible to consider until they hold a US citizen hostage.
"Tomorrow marks two years since U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs was taken hostage. Mark is a civil engineer who was helping with construction projects for the benefit of the Afghan people when he was taken captive. Despite his innocence, he remains held hostage by the Taliban and its affiliates," Price said in a statement to mark the second anniversary of the kidnapping on Monday.
"The United States has raised Mark's case in every meeting with the Taliban, and we have been clear that the legitimacy the Taliban seek is impossible to consider while they hold a U.S. citizen hostage. His release is among our core, non-negotiable priorities. We will continue to send a clear message to Taliban leadership: immediately and safely release Mark and disavow the practice of hostage-taking," the statement added.
The statement came as Afghanistan faces a humanitarian crisis following the US withdrawal in August last year.
A combination of a suspension of foreign aid, the freezing of Afghan government assets, and international sanctions on the Taliban, have plunged the country, already suffering from high poverty levels, into a full-blown economic crisis.