Five months ago, an American and an Australian professor were kidnapped by the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan. In a video uploaded to Youtube this past Wednesday, which was apparently filmed on January 1st, the professors have pleaded with American President-elect Donald Trump to help secure their release. This 13-minute video is the first public sign of life of Professors Kevin King and Timothy John Weeks. In the video, they plead to their respective governments to cooperate with the Taliban and release Taliban prisoners in exchange for their freedom. Though there was a Navy SEAL raid in Afghanistan to rescue the professors, it was unsuccessful. Information obtained from this raid suggests that the Haqqani network of the Taliban is responsible for the kidnapping.
American Kevin King and Australian Timothy John Weeks were violently kidnapped on August 7th, 2016 by the Taliban outside of the American University of Afghanistan, where both professors taught. A few weeks after the kidnapping, the Taliban violently attacked the university campus. More than a dozen students were killed and the university was closed for security reasons. Currently, the university is preparing to reopen classes. Furthermore, the abduction of King and Weeks was a part of several other recent kidnappings in Kabul; two Australian women were kidnapped as well. One was released after four months, and the others whereabouts are unknown.
In the video, the professors address Donald Trump directly. Weeks explains that the Taliban wants prisoners held at Bagram airfield and at Pul-e-Charkhi prison to be freed in exchange for the professors’ lives. “If we stay here for much longer, we will be killed,” says Weeks, “I don’t want to die here.” Weeks also adds, “Donald Trump, sir, I ask you, please. This is in your hands. I ask you please to negotiate with the Taliban. If you do not negotiate with them, we will be killed.”
Kidnapping, in general, has been a major issue in Afghanistan for many years. Although most of the victims are Afghan, often kidnapped by criminal gangs for ransom money, the Taliban has kidnapped a number of foreign workers or visitors for political purposes. Last year, the Taliban released a similar video showing an American and Canadian couple, who were kidnapped in 2012, begging their governments to help them by pressuring the Kabul government to not execute Taliban prisoners. Also, the American government has fulfilled Taliban demands to free hostages in the past. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier, was released in 2014 after the Haqqani demanded five Taliban prisoners be returned to them. Kidnappings like these continue to be a difficult issue for governments to solve, as they involve extremist groups and civilian lives.