When the US leaves the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, a family fears that a US hostage will also be left behind
Kabul – The withdrawal of US troopsreached a significant milestone on Friday when officials confirmed that all American forces had left the sprawling Bagram Air Force Base. For nearly 20 years, Bagram has been the US’s main military base to wage its war in Afghanistan.
CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that the unceremonious withdrawal of US forces from Bagram is the most significant evidence yet that America’s longest war is finally over. The base was in the hands of Afghan security forces on Friday – well ahead of the deadline set by President Biden to allow all U.S. forces by Jan.
That does not mean the withdrawal of American troops is complete, however, and officials stressed that US Supreme Commander in Afghanistan, Army General Scott Miller, “still has all the skills and powers to protect the armed forces” still in the country are.
The US military didn’t say when the last American soldiers should pack their bags and head home from Afghanistan, but there are a lot of unfinished business.
The Taliban welcomed the news of the handover of Bagram, spokesman Suhail Shaheen told CBS News on Friday, adding, “We hope there are no more foreign soldiers on our land.”
It won’t be long before US troops leave, and an American’s family is afraid that he will then be abandoned and placed in the hands of the Taliban.
“Any effort you can?”
Mark Frerichs has been missing since January 2020 when he was kidnapped in Kabul. The U.S. Navy veteran and civil engineer from Lombard, Illinois, was brought to the Afghan capital after a meeting to discuss a project.
“I want the troops to come home to their families, just like I want my brother to come home to his family,” Frerichs’ sister Charlene told CBS News.
As US soldiers pack up and head home, his family knows the clock is ticking, and now Charlene and her husband Chris turn to the White House for help.
Charlene said she wanted to tell President Biden that she knows he “knows my brother well. You know my brother’s situation … are you doing everything you can to bring my brother home, like you would if he were your own brother? “
But it could be harder to get him home without U.S. troops on hand to provide the information to determine his whereabouts or the leverage to conduct a rescue or negotiate a release.
As a former senior director of counterterrorism and transnational threats for the National Security Council (NSC), Chris Miller was the man responsible for efforts to bring American hostages home.
“Prison Swap is as old as the dawn of warfare,” Miller told CBS News. “It’s completely legal and completely appropriate, and I think there might be an opportunity.”
Miller said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has many Taliban prisoners in his country’s prisons who could be used as leverage to strike a deal with the insurgent group.
Charlene told CBS News that not a day goes by without imagining the moment she receives the news that her brother is coming home.
“If you call me and tell me you found Mark and he’s on a plane, you’ll meet him … I’d hug him the most when I see him,” she said. “I don’t think I want to let go.”
But President Ghani has said that Frerichs’ name is not even in hisin Washington last week.
Charlene told D’Agata that she tried to meet with President Trump and then President Biden, but both men refused.
Ahmad Mukhtar, producer for CBS News, contributed to this report.