Afghan Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Najib Danish has said that Pakistan can play a role in the release of abducted American professor who along with another Australian professor went missing after five gunmen disguised in Afghan military uniforms targeted an SUV on a main road near Kabul’s American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) a year and three months ago.
Emphasising the importance of Pakistan in the release of 60-year-old professor Kevin King, the Afghan official alleged that the professors are being held in the border region — on the Pakistan side.
Danish told Fox News, “The terrorists do not have the power to keep hostages for such a long time in Afghanistan because the people here would have let Afghan forces know of their location by now.”
“We are sure the Pakistan government wants to take advantage of these professors and at some point will release them like the other couple. This is a game by Pakistan,” he alleged.
Last week, the Afghan Taliban released a statement indicating that King is seriously ill and requires urgent medical attention.
“His illness has intensified, his feet have swollen and sometimes he becomes unconscious and his condition worsens every day,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said. “We have tried to treat him time to time but we do not have medical facilities as we are in a war situation.”
The professors are believed to be under the captive authority of the Haqqani network, which works closely with the Taliban as a kidnapping moneymaking enterprise. Haqqani also held US soldier Bowe Bergdahl and the recently released hiker Caitlan Coleman and her family — who were located in Pakistan following a grueling five-year captivity.
A senior Afghan intel source, connected to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), also affirmed to Fox News that the professors were kidnapped by Haqqani militants with the help of “internal circles,” which function like criminal gangs in Kabul. According to the source, they were held initially in the Arzo district of Logar province in the Speen Jomat area, just a few miles from the tribal area of Pakistan known as Parachinar, but were later shifted deeper inside the Kurram district inside the bordering tribal areas.
The NDS source also claimed that the Haqqani network continues to demand the release of one of their top commanders, Anas Haqqani, who was captured in 2014 and sentenced to death by Afghan officials and that there are some Afghan officials pushing for this maneuver under the belief it may make foreign visitors safer.
However, a well-placed US official told Fox News that they are absolutely standing by their no-concession policy, and that there will be no such trades made. Nonetheless, they do believe King’s condition to be especially dire and are calling for the immediate release of the professors on humanitarian grounds, stressing that “time is of the essence.”
King is thought to have developed serious heart and kidney problems since being in captivity, and the Taliban have sought to make this public now as, according to a government source, it has proven to be a “burden” on them.
The Taliban, which did not provide proof of King’s deteriorating condition, indicated in their statement last week that the US is running out of time to fulfil its demands and that the “Islamic emirate will not be held responsible” if he dies.
Due to the sensitive nature of the situation, US authorities closely connected to the case were not able to verify whether King and Weeks are likely inside Afghanistan or Pakistan territory. The US State Department has persistently, and continues to, call for the immediate and unconditional release of the two hostages.
The Pakistan Embassy in the US did not respond to a further request for comment, but Washington-based Pakistan Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry assured Fox News in September that they do not allow insurgent groups to operate in their territory, and that the government has regained full control of the country — including the oft-considered lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Chaudhry also insisted that it is the Afghan government which needs to stop sending “mixed messages” to groups like the Taliban. The two neighboring countries long have had tensions over issues of security and terrorism, and which country is to blame for its export.