REVEALED: American aid worker Ryan Corbett has been held hostage in Afghanistan for 15 months – as Taliban demands ‘unrealistic’ swap for Osama bin Laden aide held in Gitmo


An American aid worker has been held hostage by the Taliban for the past 15 months, with the extremist group unrealistically demanding a prisoner swap for a high-profile detainee at Guantanamo Bay, it has been revealed.

Ryan Corbett, 40, was captured last year while visiting Afghanistan, where he had lived with his family as an aid worker for nearly a decade, but his plight was not publicly disclosed until Tuesday. 

‘We recently learned that Ryan has been fainting and experiencing seizures. He is often threatened with physical harm,’ Corbett’s wife Anna told a congressional hearing in emotional testimony.

‘He is told by his captors that he has been forgotten and that his country doesn’t care about him. And why wouldn’t he believe it when other Westerners have come and gone so much faster than he?’ she said, struggling to hold back tears. 

In September, the State Department secretly designated Corbett a wrongful detainee, giving presidential hostage envoy Roger Carstens sweeping powers to push for his release, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first revealed Corbett’s detention status.

Ryan Corbett’s wife Anna testified on Tuesday, revealing her husband has been held hostage by the Taliban for 15 months in Afghanistan

The Taliban is unrealistically seeking to trade Corbett for the release of Muhammad Rahim al Afghani (above), a former aide to Osama bin Laden who is extrajudicially detained in Gitmo

The Taliban is unrealistically seeking to trade Corbett for the release of Muhammad Rahim al Afghani (above), a former aide to Osama bin Laden who is extrajudicially detained in Gitmo

Those negotiations appear to have stalled, however, because the Taliban is unrealistically seeking to trade Corbett for the release of Muhammad Rahim al Afghani, a former aide to Osama bin Laden, the Journal reported. 

‘I don’t think we’re close, given their maximalist demands,’ a senior US official told the outlet.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Tuesday morning. 

Corbett and his wife lived in Afghanistan for more than a decade, after moving there in 2010 with their two daughters for Corbett’s work with a Christian-affiliated nongovernmental organization.

Corbett learned Pashto, the main language of Afghanistan, and handled administrative duties for the NGO while teaching English. The couple’s third child, a son, was born during their time in the country.

The family fled and returned to their home in western New York when the Taliban swept back into power in 2021, but nearly a year later, Corbett visited Afghanistan to explore the feasibility of a permanent return.

In the summer of 2022, he was visiting Sheberghan, a remote city 300 miles northwest of Kabul, with a German colleague when Taliban security forces detained both men.

The Taliban accused them of proselytizing Christianity, a claim denied by Corbett’s family and the colleague, who has since been released. 

Locked in a local jail as the Taliban tortured inmates in neighboring cells, Corbett frantically texted his family as the reality of his predicament set in, according to the Journal.

Taliban Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada is seen above. Negotiations for Corbett's release have been complicated by the fact that the US does not recognize the Taliban

Taliban Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada is seen above. Negotiations for Corbett’s release have been complicated by the fact that the US does not recognize the Taliban

Corbett was later transferred to Prison 69 in Kabul, a basement holding pen for foreigners controlled by the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence.

He was held in solitary for months and his health is in decline, following hunger strikes to force his captors to allow contact with US officials.

His family said that so far he has only been allowed a single six-minute call with his wife in May, in which he said he had been fainting and was taking pills provided by his jailers, although he wasn’t sure what they contained.

Negotiations for Corbett’s release have been complicated by the fact that the US does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.

And sources say that the Taliban’s demand to swap Corbett for Rahim is unrealistic.

The CIA describes Rahim as a ‘tough, seasoned jihadist’ who helped terror mastermind Osama bin Laden evade capture for years, serving as his top aide and translator.

Rahim has been held without criminal charges in Guantanamo Bay since 2008, and is considered a significant continuing threat to the US by intelligence services.

The Taliban has sought his release since the Trump administration, and continues to float his name as a potential prisoner swap for Corbett, according the the Journal.

However, even if the US were willing to trade Rahim, his release would require sign-off from Guantanamo’s periodic review board, which has previously said it does not ever plan to authorize his release.

‘It’s not a real demand because real demands are things that could conceivably be had,’ a US official told the Journal. 

‘Asking for something unavailable smacks of purporting to negotiate in good faith while really prolonging a situation that’s inhumane and unacceptable.’ 

In September, the State Department secretly designated Corbett a wrongful detainee, giving presidential hostage envoy Roger Carstens (above) sweeping powers to push for his release

In September, the State Department secretly designated Corbett a wrongful detainee, giving presidential hostage envoy Roger Carstens (above) sweeping powers to push for his release

Camp 5 at the US Military's Prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is seen above in a file photo

Camp 5 at the US Military’s Prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is seen above in a file photo

Hostage diplomacy has been a growing issue around the globe in recent years, with governments including Russia, China, and Venezuela unjustly detaining Americans to use as bargaining chips with DC.

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, which advocates for Americans held hostage around the world, estimates that there are at least 67 publicly disclosed wrongful detainees worldwide, although the actual number is likely much higher. 

A US official told the Journal that at least 37 Americans have gained their freedom from detention abroad during the Biden administration. 

Ahead of President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday, the families of three Americans wrongfully detained in China have pressed for action to secure their release.

A State Department spokesperson told DailyMail.com that the agency continually raises the cases of US nationals wrongfully detained in China during its engagements with with senior Chinese officials.

The person said that due to the sensitive nature of the conversations, they could not be discussed publicly, but insisted that talks remain ongoing. 

In the past several months, the US Ambassador in Beijing, Nicholas Burns, has visited every wrongfully detained US national in China, the person said.

The spokesperson also noted that for operational security and privacy reasons, the US does not make every wrongful detention determination public.



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