And US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Washington was “working actively” to free the American from Taliban custody. He declined to say more, citing the “sensitivity of it.”
The American detainee and at least four other detained British nationals remain publicly unidentified. It was unclear how many were being held together.
Speaking to the AP by phone from her home in London, Syed, an Afghan, said her husband was in Afghanistan to investigate business opportunities, including investment in lithium mining. Afghanistan is rich in lithium, a key component of energy storage batteries. He was traveling alone and not associated with other inmates, she said.
Jouvenal had worked as a freelance cameraman during the 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and followed the country through its many wars. He married Syed and they have three daughters.
Jouvenal, who speaks both Pashto and Dari, Afghanistan’s two official languages, had several meetings with the Taliban’s mines ministry before he was arrested in December, Syed said, including with the minister. . No charges were filed and until his detention, Syed said, Jouvenal had been careful to stay in regular contact with Taliban authorities to ensure they were aware of his activities and movements.
In the mid-2000s, Jouvenal owned and operated the Gandamak restaurant and guesthouse in the Afghan capital, which had become well known to many journalists who visited Afghanistan during the US-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.
The Taliban did not respond to requests for comment on foreign nationals and Jouvenal in particular.
In a statement, the British Foreign Office said the detention of British nationals was being discussed with the Taliban.
“British officials have raised their detention with the Taliban at every opportunity, including when a delegation visited Kabul last week,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement earlier this week.
There was no explanation for the detentions.
Syed said her husband was alone and not traveling with the other male detainees.
According to people with direct knowledge of the men currently being held by the Taliban, at least two of the detainees were apparently in Afghanistan secretly evacuating Afghan nationals. People with direct knowledge spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks.
The Taliban have made it clear that Afghans without proper papers will not be allowed to leave the country.
Syed said she feared her husband was implicated in a Taliban investigation into attempts to secretly transfer Afghan nationals out of the country.
But Syed said she, too, planned to return to Afghanistan after her husband’s first trip to seek partners in mining ventures. Together, they planned to create joint ventures.
During the phone interview, Syed expressed her fear for her husband’s well-being, but also her frustration with the Taliban administration.
“They say they want foreign and Afghan businessmen to come to Afghanistan, to invest in Afghanistan, but why would anyone want to invest if they can’t be sure of their safety?” she asked.
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report