WASHINGTON (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — A family from suburban Lombard is desperate to bring home their son, a U.S. Navy veteran, who was kidnapped in the Afghan capital city of Kabul more than a year ago.
The father of Mark FrerichsM.aREAD MORE: Record 53,000 Rat Complaints Help Chicago Retain Crown As Rattiest City In America For 7th Year In A Row
At Art Frerichs’ auto repair shop in Lombard, the marquee outside reads, “Freedom is not free.” Mark Frerichs is his son, and has certainly paid the price.
De Mar: “Do you feel in some ways, that the U.S. is leaving your son behind – a veteran behind?”
Art Frerichs: “Yes.”
De Mar: “That’s got to hurt.”
Art Frerichs: “Well, it does. It bothers me very much.”
Mark Frerichs, a civil engineer, had bene living and working in Afghanistan for over a decade. He was kidnapped in Kabul in January 2020 after going to a meeting to discuss a project.
Now, with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s seemingly swift rise to power, the Frerichs family is pushing frantically for Mark Frerichs’ return.
“It’s total chaos over there – much less, you know, somebody getting in there and finding my son,” Art Frerichs said.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sens Tammy Duckworth and Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) wrote to President Joe Biden, asking that the national Security Council immediately find a way to secure Frerichs’ safe return.
The senators said Mark Frerichs is possibly the only U.S. citizen being held hostage.
“The priority is Mark Frerichs, who’s from Illinois, who has been held by the Taliban for well over a year,” Duckworth said. “We need to get him home.”
Since Mark Frerichs was abducted by the Taliban, Haqqani network, or their affiliates in Afghanistan, Durbin and Duckworth have called repeatedly on the Trump and Biden administrations to make his safe return a priority.READ MORE: Thief Smashes Front Door Of Halal Guys Restaurant On Near North Side To Steal Money From Cash Register
Duckworth also discussed the need for a safe return for Mark Frerichs during a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in May about the transition of troops out of Afghanistan. At the time, she received a commitment for Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey to look for opportunities to advocate for Frerichs’ safe return.
During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing recently, Durbin urged Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also to do everything he could to bring Frerichs home.
And back at home, Art Frerichs is counting on lawmakers to keep their word and return his boy
Art Frerichs: “It seems like the politicians don’t get anything done unless it’s last minute.”
De Mar: “What is the biggest concern for you right now?”
Art Frerichs: “Getting him back. It’s an ongoing saga.”
Art Frerichs told us that his daughter was in Washington, D.C this week – meeting with officials from several departments, including the National Security Council, to urge them to bring Mark Frerichs home.
As to whether he’s still hopeful that his son will come back, Art Frerichs said he is putting his hope in lawmakers – specifically mentioning Sen. Duckworth. He said if the politicians don’t do anything, his son might not ever come home.
In recent days, the Afghan government has collapsed and the Taliban has rapidly taken over the country ahead of the U.S. withdrawal of the last troops there. The development has led to finger-pointing across the federal government, with members of both parties blaming their political opponents for the chaos that unfolded over the weekend.
In his first remarks since dramatic scenes in Kabul showed desperate Afghans attempting to flee the country at its main airport, President Biden on Monday defended his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and said he inherited the situation from former President Donald Trump, whose administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban and pledged all U.S. forces would be out of the country by May 1.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Mr. Biden said in remarks at the White House, after which he returned to Camp David in Maryland. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”MORE NEWS: Investigation Underway After 74-Year-Old Man Found Dead In Englewood Home
President Biden’s speech Monday made no mention of Mark Frerichs.