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US-Taliban prisoner swap: Who are Mark Frerichs, Bashir Noorzai?

The US welcomes Afghanistan’s release of Navy veteran Mark Frerichs, who was swapped for convicted drug trafficker Bashir Noorzai.

Washington, D.C. – The United States has released a convicted Afghan drug lord detained in the US as part of a prisoner swap with the Taliban that released a US Navy veteran who has been held in Afghanistan since 2020.

US President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the release of Mark Frerichs, who was kidnapped while working as a civil engineer in Afghanistan.

However, he acknowledged that the deal “required difficult decisions,” referring to the release of Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban ally who was serving a life sentence in a US prison on drug-related offences.

The prisoner swap comes more than a year after the Taliban took over the Afghan capital following the withdrawal of US troops in August 2021.

Washington has not recognized the Taliban government. But on Monday, officials in both countries said the prisoner swap was the result of lengthy negotiations, suggesting channels of communication between the Biden administration and the Taliban are open.

Here, Al Jazeera takes a look at who Frerichs and Noorzai are and the efforts that led to their release.

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