WASHINGTON — Two US citizens held captive in Afghanistan are on their way home this week after the Taliban released them in an act of “goodwill,” the State Department confirmed Tuesday.
The Taliban sent the Americans to Doha, Qatar, to be transferred into US custody Tuesday. Their release was not part of any larger deal with the US, department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“This was not part of any swap of prisoners or detainees,” Price said. “There was no money that exchanged hands.”
One of the two released Americans is filmmaker Ivor Shearer, CNN reported Tuesday, citing two unnamed sources. The Taliban arrested Shearer in August while he was filming an area in Kabul where a US drone strike killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri roughly four months ago, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
There was no information immediately available about the second prisoner’s identity.
“We are providing these two US nationals with all appropriate assistance,” Price said. “They will soon be reunited with their loved ones and we are absolutely gratified to see that.”
The release came the same day the Taliban announced a ban on women attending universities in Afghanistan, which the State Department condemned. The Taliban’s ban followed a March order that closed secondary schools to girls, which Price said “has had a significant impact on our engagement with the Taliban representatives.”
“The Taliban made promises to the people of Afghanistan and to the international community that schools would reopen. They claimed that this was a matter of procedures and arrangement would be quickly reversed,” Price said. “Now, we hear the opposite.”
The spokesman declined to speculate whether the prisoner release was meant to soften the US response to the Taliban’s restrictions, but acknowledged “the irony of [the Taliban] granting us a goodwill gesture on a day where they undertake a gesture like this.”
Price vowed the Americans’ release will not sway Washington’s determination to advocate for women’s education and other human rights issues in their discussions with the Taliban, who overthrew the US-installed Afghan government as American troops withdrew from Kabul in August 2021.
“We have an interest in seeing Americans released from detention; we obviously welcome the release of these two Americans today,” the spokesmana said. “But beyond that … human rights, safe passage, representative government, counterterrorism … all of these are priority issues for people in our engagement with Taliban [and] we will continue to be take a principled and pragmatic approach.”