Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi on Monday confirmed that the Taliban has freed an American engineer in return for an Afghan leader in a prisoner swap between the two countries.
Haji Bashir Noorzai a senior member of the Taliban arrived in Kabul today. Acting Afghan minister Khan told a press conference here today that Noorzai, who was in US custody since 2005 after his arrest on drug smuggling was released in exchange for American citizen Mark Frerichs, Tolo News reported.
Noorzai said that his exchange for the American citizen Frerichs will help resolve problems between Afghanistan and the US.
Noorzai spent nearly two decades in prison on charges of drug smuggling.
He was reportedly close to the founder of the Taliban movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar, according to Tolo News.
Noorzai contacted American troops in Afghanistan after 2001 and travelled to the US. While Noorzai was in New York in 2005 he was arrested, and sentenced to life in prison by a US court.
“Honorable Haji Bashir was released after two decades of imprisonment and arrived in Kabul today,” Mohammad Naeem, Islamic Emirate’s Qatar-based political office spokesman, said in a tweet.
This prisoner swap may show their positive relationship but earlier, the Taliban accused the US of having usurped the Afghan assets after they announced to release of USD 3.5 billion of frozen money from Afghanistan as humanitarian aid for the poverty-stricken country.
“The assets of the people of Afghanistan have been usurped by the United States,” the Dawn quoted Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid as saying. “We consider it an invasion on the property of Afghans. The United States is not the owner of these assets,” Mujahid said while demanding that funds should be released “without any conditions”.
The United States on Wednesday announced to release of USD 3.5 billion of the total USD 7 billion frozen money from Afghanistan to the new “Afghan Fund” for humanitarian aid.
The US Treasury Department said it would transfer USD 3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets into a new Swiss-based trust fund that will be shielded from the Islamic Emirate and used to help stabilize Afghanistan’s collapsed economy.
The new Afghan Fund, based in Geneva, will not provide humanitarian assistance but will be put in charge of core central bank functions such as paying
Afghanistan’s international arrears and electricity imports — and potentially for necessities such as printing currency.