Statement by Secretary Pompeo on Celebrating the Release of American and Australian Hostages

Today, the United States welcomes the release of Professors Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.  Both men were successfully recovered this morning, are in the care of the U.S. military, and will soon be reunited with their loved ones.

Professors King and Weeks went to Afghanistan to teach at the American University of Afghanistan, inspired by the opportunity to help educate young people.  In their more than three years in captivity, they paid a heavy price for their selfless generosity.  The United States condemns the taking of innocent civilians as hostages.

The Taliban have indicated that the release of the two professors is intended as a goodwill gesture, which the United States welcomes.  Additionally, we welcome the Taliban’s impending release of 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government’s release of 3 Taliban prisoners.  We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement.

We commend President Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan government for advancing that goal while simultaneously working to strengthen and reform Afghanistan’s security forces.  During the past two years, President Ghani extended an offer to talk to the Taliban without preconditions.  He also called for a ceasefire during the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr in 2018, which the Taliban reciprocated.  The public’s grateful reaction to that interruption in the violence dramatically illustrated their overwhelming desire for peace.

The United States also commends the many Afghan politicians who put their political differences aside and did not use these humanitarian gestures for personal political gain.  Along with a reduction of violence in Kabul during the past few days, the above developments give us hope for the success of intra-Afghan peace negotiations, which the United States stands ready to support.