The Biden administration executed a prisoner swap last week that brought Mark Frerichs home to the United States after being held captive in Afghanistan for more than two years.
In return for Frerichs' release, U.S. officials allowed Haji Bashir Noorzai — a prominent member of the Taliban, who had been in an American prison for 17 years on drug-trafficking charges — to be granted clemency.
The same Noorzai who reportedly belonged to a prominent U.S. agency's special ops "kill" list in a classified setting.
A U.S. Navy veteran who had spent more than a decade in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, Frerichs was abducted in January 2020, possibly within the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
Frerichs' release comes five months after the Biden administration negotiated terms to bring home U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed.
However, WNBA star Brittney Griner and corporate security executive Paul Whelan are still being held by Russian authorities, and there no indications that a prisoner swap involving Griner and/or Whelan is imminent — even though Griner's arrest, court hearings, and subsequent guilty plea have garnered much attention in American media.
Griner has already been sentenced to a nine-year prison term in Russia.
According to Fox News, negotiations involving the potential release of Noorzai began in June, when President Joe Biden granted relief from the Taliban drug lord's life sentence, paving the way for a "very narrow window of opportunity" to complete the deal, according to a U.S. official.
Noorzai had been a "high-priority target" on the U.S. special operations forces' highly classified kill-or-capture list, after reportedly pouring millions of drug dollars into the Taliban treasury, according to Military.com.
Michael Braun, chief operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, reportedly oversaw the complex sting which lured Noorzai to his arrest in New York City in April 2005.
Braun's team reportedly featured a group of agents from the DEA's Special Operations Division, who focused on "narcoterrorists" that used drug money to finance terrorism.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars generated by the Noorzai heroin trafficking enterprise went straight into the war chests of the Taliban and most assuredly funded attacks against our military forces and those of our allies in Afghanistan and the region," said Braun, according to Military.com.
"The lives of U.S. military and coalition partners were placed at great risk while executing several highly dangerous operations to hunt him down," added Braun.
At the time of his 2005 arrest, Noorzai seemingly didn't possess the profile for a future candidate for presidential clemency.
According to Fox News, Noorzai was on a list of the world's most prolific drug traffickers, and was prosecuted in Manhattan's federal court on charges of owning opium fields in Kandahar province (Afghanistan) and relying on a network of distributors who sold the heroin in New York.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.