Photo: Captured from a video via

US State Department: Taliban Detention of American Citizens an Obstacle to Positive Engagement

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – The US Department of State’s spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said that the detention of American citizens in Afghanistan is a significant obstacle to positive engagement between Washington and the Taliban.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, February 28, when asked about the US hostages in Taliban prison, Miller said that US officials have “continuously and consistently” pressed the Taliban for the immediate and unconditional release of Americans detained in Afghanistan.

Reports indicate that several American citizens, including Ryan Corbett, an American entrepreneur, who was detained in Kabul in August 2022, are in Taliban custody, although precise statistics are not available.

Yet, neither US officials nor the Taliban have publicly disclosed the number of American citizens detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Previously, members of the US Congress condemned the Taliban’s “wrongful detention” of US citizens and urged for the immediate release of Ryan Corbett from Taliban custody.

According to a statement released by the US Congress on January 16, Mr. Corbett, 40, moved with his family to Afghanistan in 2010 to help the people of Afghanistan. He left Afghanistan when the republic government collapsed in August 2021.

Mr. Corbett’s family reported that the Taliban detained him during a business trip to Kabul with a German colleague and two Afghan colleagues on August 10, 2022.

Earlier this month, the Al Arabiya news agency reported that the US and the Taliban had reached an agreement to release an aide of the former Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, in exchange for the release of Ryan Corbett.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson for the Taliban, has previously acknowledged the detention of Americans in Afghanistan. However, he abstained from providing further details, citing ongoing security and judicial considerations surrounding the case.

However, last December, Mr. Miller emphasized that the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, engaged in discussions with Taliban authorities regarding the Americans detained in Taliban custody.

“I want to say that the security of American citizens is our priority, not only in this conversation but also in previous conversations, we emphasized the freedom of American citizens in Afghanistan. We discussed this issue with the leaders of the Taliban [Islamic Emirate] and insisted,” said Miller.

This comes as on Sunday, February 25th, an 84-year-old Australian citizen was released from Taliban captivity with the mediation of Qatar. He had traveled to Afghanistan last year and was detained by the Taliban on charges of espionage.

The Taliban has a history of holding Westerners hostage to gain political advantage and secure prisoner exchanges.

In September 2022, a Taliban financier figure and drug lord, Bashir Noorzai, who was serving a life sentence, was released in exchange for the release of a US citizen, Mark Frerichs, who had been detained by the Taliban prior to the collapse of Afghanistan.

In 2014, the Taliban released Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army sergeant who had been held captive for five years by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group, in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at Guantánamo Bay, many of whom hold senior positions in their current administration.