At least one other American, Ivor Shearer, is in Taliban custody. Mr. Shearer was working as an independent filmmaker in Kabul when he was detained along his Afghan producer in August, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press watchdog.
The exchange on Monday was the first major, public act of cooperation between the United States and the Taliban since an American drone strike killed the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, in downtown Kabul in August.
The strike drew a sharp rebuke from Taliban officials, who characterized it as a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and raised questions about whether a new era of U.S. strikes in Afghanistan had begun. At the same time, the public revelation that the Taliban had been sheltering a key plotter of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States appeared to push the country further toward pariah state status.
In the weeks since, the United States and Taliban have clashed over another key policy issue: The use of funds that President Biden had frozen and seized from Afghanistan’s central bank after the Taliban took over the country last year.
Last week, the Biden administration moved to establish a foundation based in Switzerland that would begin spending $3.5 billion of those funds to address the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Afghanistan, while keeping the funds out of the Taliban’s hands.
The Taliban condemned the move, warning that if the United States proceeded with those plans they “will be forced to impose fines against, and ban activities of, all individuals, institutions and companies that facilitate this illegal venture and seek to misuse Central Bank reserves for humanitarian and other purposes,” according to a statement from the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Yaqoob Akbary reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Christina Goldbaum from Sukkur, Pakistan. Reporting was contributed by Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Afghanistan; Najim Rahimfrom San Francisco, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kostyantynivka, Ukraine.