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Taliban detaining Westerners in Afghanistan, including 1 American: reports

Taliban
Taliban fighters parade along a road to celebrate after the United States pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, in Kandahar on September 1, 2021, following the Taliban's military takeover. |

The Taliban controlled-government of Afghanistan is holding at least nine foreign nationals in custody, including one United States citizen, according to various reports released Friday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees took to Twitter on Friday to announce that two reporters working with their organization were being detained in that nation's capital.

“Two journalists on assignment with UNHCR and Afghan nationals working with them have been detained in Kabul. We are doing our utmost to resolve the situation, in coordination with others. We will make no further comment given the nature of the situation,” the UNHCR tweeted.

Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement that he considered the detaining of the journalists “a sad reflection of the overall decline of press freedom and increasing attacks on journalists under Taliban rule.”

“Andrew North and the other, unidentified journalist should be freed immediately and allowed to continue their work, and the Taliban must halt its repeated attacks on and harassment of journalists,” Butler said.

The Wall Street Journal reported that around nine people were being detained, which included the UNHCR workers, as well as seven westerners who had been in Afghanistan since last December.

The Wall Street Journal reported that around nine people were being detained, including the UNHCR workers and seven westerners who had been in Afghanistan since last December.

“Most of them had worked in the security sector, according to people with knowledge of their activities in Afghanistan,” the Journal reported on Friday.

“Before their arrests, most were working openly in Afghanistan, with frequent official contact with the Taliban leadership, these people said. Some were helping facilitate the evacuation of at-risk Afghans from the country.”

The Washington Post cited a “member of a Taliban intelligence unit in Kabul” who said that “several foreign nationals” had been arrested “on charges of working for Western intelligence agencies.”

“The person familiar with the arrest said the two journalists and the Afghan nationals were detained ‘earlier this week’ and days of negotiations have failed to secure their release,” The Washington Post reported. 

Over the past several years, the United States has gradually lowered its troop numbers in Afghanistan after removing the Taliban regime in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks.

In February 2020, then-President Donald Trump announced that he had made a deal with Taliban insurgents to end the war and withdraw the remaining U.S. troops in the Central Asian nation.

Last year, President Joe Biden withdrew the remaining troops without first evacuating military equipment and U.S. civilians who were in the country. In August, the Taliban retook most of the country with unexpected speed, prompting a major evacuation crisis. Several Americans reported being attacked and beaten by the Taliban as they attempted to reach Kabul airport.

In response to the crisis, the Biden administration sent approximately 6,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans. However, many Americans and Afghan allies were not evacuated and left behind. 

Earlier this month, U.S. Senate Republicans released a report that said the Biden administration left hundreds or possibly thousands of Americans behind in Afghanistan, in contrast to the official statistics compiled by the U.S. State Department.

“The failure of senior Biden Administration leadership to plan for this fateful day resulted in a rushed evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Americans, third-country nationals, and Afghans,” the report said.

“It left behind hundreds, possibly thousands, of American citizens, tens of thousands of Afghan partners, and a legacy of betrayal of American allies.” 

After the  evacuation, Biden said the U.S. would "ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan."

"America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked this country on September 11th. That mission resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden over a decade ago and the degradation of al Qaeda," said Biden in an Aug. 14 statement.

"I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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