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Family of American man held by Taliban pushes for his release

For more than 600 days now, the only way Ryan Corbett's family has seen him is in a photo of him taken while in Taliban captivity.
Family of American man held by Taliban pushes for his release
Posted at 2:53 PM, Apr 15, 2024

In a photo taken several years ago, the Corbett family can be seen in happier times: Ryan and his wife, Anna, along with their three children.

"He's someone who cares deeply about other people and bettering their careers, their lives," Anna Corbett said, "and he's been an amazing dad and husband."

For more than 600 days now, though, the only way they've seen Ryan is in a photo of him taken while in Taliban captivity. They are pushing for his release and have set up a website so others can learn about Ryan's situation. 

"We've been concerned, as we've heard about his health, it's been declining and deteriorating," Anna said.

For 12 years, the upstate New York family lived off-and-on in Afghanistan, as Ryan worked to help Afghans set up small businesses of their own.

When the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021 and the Taliban took over, the family evacuated.

"It was really a difficult thing to just leave and quit because people were depending on his work, his staff and those who were starting their own businesses," Anna said. "So, that's why he kept it going, even when we moved back to the States."

The following year, Ryan secured a one-year visa to Afghanistan and returned in January 2022 for a short trip, with no issues.

He returned to the country a second time seven months later, in August of 2022 — and that's when the family's nightmare began.

"They saw an opportunity. They saw his blue passport and decided that they could try to get something out of this," Anna said. "He is being held by the general directorate of intelligence in Kabul."

She said no charges have been filed against her husband. The U.S. State Department considers Corbett to be "wrongfully detained," which is a special designation that gets more government personnel involved in their case.

In a statement to Scripps News, State Department officials wouldn't specifically address Corbett's case, but in a recent media briefing, a spokesperson did.

"We are working every day to try and bring Ryan Corbett home. We have continually pressed, including in our meetings with Taliban representatives, for the immediate and unconditional release of Ryan Corbett and other Americans detained in Afghanistan," U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on March 28. "We have made clear to the Taliban that these detentions are a significant obstacle to positive engagement, and we will continue to do that."

Ryan Corbett's case is now attracting Congressional attention. Bipartisan resolutions — one introduced in the U.S. House and one passed in the U.S. Senate — are calling for his release and renewing efforts to get him home.

SEE MORE: Taliban leader urges officials to set aside differences

This past week during her 10th trip to the nation's capital, Anna Corbett and her family met with both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. On the Senate floor, both leaders addressed Corbett's wrongful detention by the Taliban.

"As long as Ryan is held by the Taliban, I will never stop fighting to bring him back home and reunite him with Anna, his children, his family as quickly as possible," said Sen. Schumer, who represents the Corbetts' home state of New York.

Sen. McConnell represents Kentucky, where Corbett's parents live.

"It's time to show our enemies that the United States will not let American citizens be used as bargaining chips," Sen. McConnell said. "It's time to bring Ryan Corbett home."

For the Corbett family, time is of the essence.

In the handful of phone calls that the Taliban has allowed Ryan to have since 2022, Anna Corbett said she's noticed a change.

"He's losing hope. He doesn't understand why he's still being held, what's taking so long to resolve this — and that's really scary for us. Very scary," she said, before becoming teary-eyed. "People get scared when they lose contact with their loved one for an hour. For us, it's been over 600 days that we don't know what's going on and. That's really tough for the kids and I."

While in Washington, Anna Corbett went to the White House to meet with staff members there. She's now hoping President Biden will intervene, so the family can be reunited soon.

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