American contractor Mark Frerichs was seized in Kabul 17 months ago—and with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan picking up speed, his relatives fear he will be left behind. Special operations forces who could carry out a rescue operation if the 58-year-old were to be located will be gone from the country within weeks, and sources tell ABC that the Department of Justice has balked at granting a Taliban request to free former Afghan drug lord Hajji Bashir Noorzai from a federal prison. Lawmakers believe Frerichs is being held in Pakistan by the Taliban's Haqqani faction and they are urging Pakistan's ISI spy service to put pressure on the network, a tactic that has secured the release of other US hostages.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Frerich's home state, says the Navy veteran served his country and the "nation should leave no stone unturned as we work to secure his safe return home." Officials said in April that the US is "extremely confident" Frerich is still alive and in Taliban custody, reports the Washington Post. Earlier this month, a report from the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation warned that the end of a physical US presence in Afghanistan will erode the "leverage needed to make progress" in hostage cases, reports the AP. Frerich's sister, Charlene, tells ABC she supports releasing Noorzai, who has served 16 years of a life sentence. "This war is ending and Justice needs to understand that we're running out of options to save my brother," she says. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)