November 20, 2020

Duckworth and Durbin to Trump, Miller & Pompeo: Hasty Withdrawal of Troops Could Extinguish Chance for Safe Return of Illinoisan Being Held Hostage in Afghanistan


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, today wrote three separate letters to President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Defense Miller urging them to take immediate action to secure the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a Veteran of the U.S. Navy who was abducted in Kabul earlier this year, and hostages like him in Afghanistan. These letters come in response to the Defense Department’s decision to hastily withdraw troops from Afghanistan without securing any concessions from the Taliban, a decision that gives away one of our biggest bargaining chips to the Taliban for nothing and that could extinguish any hope that the Illinois family of Mark Frerichs, who was last heard from on January 31, 2020, or other families of American hostages held in Afghanistan will ever see their loved ones again.

In their letter to Trump, the Senators wrote: “Hastily removing U.S. forces may reduce our leverage and ability to secure the release of American hostages like [Frerichs], and any negotiated settlement in Afghanistan must not overlook the need to first recover all American hostages.”

When writing to Pompeo, Duckworth and Durbin requested a briefing on the latest developments in the Frerichs case and stated, “We urge you, as our Nation’s chief representative on foreign affairs, to devote your attention to this case and ensure that the Frerichs family remains appraised of all your efforts to secure Mark’s safe return.”

Lastly, in their letter to Miller, Duckworth and Durbin wrote: “As you plan for an accelerated withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, please do not forget Mark and others like him or ignore the potential consequences of withdrawal without concessions from the Taliban. These hostages’ safe return should be a condition for any reduction in troops and a primary consideration in this Administration’s future plans in the region. As a Veteran, you know that we don’t leave Americans behind. We request that you ensure your interagency partners—and the entire Trump Administration—understand this, as well.”

Earlier this week, Duckworth released a statement condemning the Trump Administration’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Duckworth has been speaking out about Trump’s chaotic shakeups at the Pentagon and the implications for our national security. Durbin released a statement earlier this week regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to draw down troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq.