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Taliban special force fighters arrive inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military’s withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.  The Taliban released a U.S. Navy reservist and his brother on Friday.

Taliban special force fighters arrive inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military’s withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The Taliban released a U.S. Navy reservist and his brother on Friday. (Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/AP)

A U.S. Navy reservist and his brother were released by the Taliban on Friday after a monthslong campaign by the Biden administration to secure their freedom, the State Department said.

Safi Rauf and Anees Khalil, a U.S. green-card holder, were detained in December. The former Afghan refugees founded the Human First Coalition, which worked to evacuate people fleeing the country after the Taliban took over Kabul last year. The group later shifted to providing humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country.

In a statement, Rauf credited officials in the British, Qatari and U.S. governments, along with “our family and loved ones” and “our team at Human First Coalition, and countless friends in country, in the region, and all over the world.”

The two brothers are in Qatar, pending travel to the United States, said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“We are grateful for the efforts of all those who worked to secure their release, but more work remains,” Price said. “Unjustly holding Americans captive is always unacceptable, and we will not stop until every American who is being unjustly held against their will is able to hug their families once again.”

Rauf enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 2017 and serves as a hospital corpsman, according to his service recorded provided by the Navy. He is assigned to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. CNN first reported the release of the brothers.

The Biden administration also is seeking the release of Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran, who has been detained by the Taliban since before the Trump administration struck a deal with the militants in February 2020 to end the 20-year war.

The New Yorker published a video of Frerichs pleading for his freedom on Friday.

The Washington Post’s Alex Horton contributed to this report.


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