Taliban returns American and Australian hostages in prisoner swap
An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.
The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were "successfully recovered" in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.
The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.
Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.
In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.
In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was "gravely ill" and needed urgent care.
The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a "goodwill measure." The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.
Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.
(National Directorate of Security)
The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.
"We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement," the State Department said.
Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was "profoundly relieved" by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.
"We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan," she said.
Payne added that Weeks' family had "asked for privacy" but conveyed that they felt "relief that their long ordeal is over."
According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.
The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.