Will hostage res­cue aid U.s.-pak­istan re­la­tions?

Fam­ily had been held by group with ties to the Tal­iban

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - Shaiq Hus­sain, The Wash­ing­ton Post

The res­cue of an Amer­i­can wo­man and her fam­ily — held cap­tive by Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants — has raised hopes of a pos­si­ble warm­ing in the re­la­tion­ship between the United States and Pak­istan.

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan — The res­cue of an Amer­i­can wo­man, her Cana­dian hus­band and their three chil­dren — who had been held cap­tive by Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants — has raised hopes of a pos­si­ble warm­ing in the re­la­tion­ship between the United States and Pak­istan.

For Amer­i­can Cait­lan Cole­man and her hus­band, Joshua Boyle, the re­lease marks the end of a more than five-year cap­tiv­ity, dur­ing which Cole­man gave birth to two boys and a girl and pleaded for their re­lease in videos posted by their cap­tors on the In­ter­net.

“They have been es­sen­tially liv­ing in a hole the last five years, and that’s the kind of peo­ple we are deal­ing with,” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said that the cou­ple and their three chil­dren were found “through an in­tel­li­gence-based op­er­a­tion” Wed­nes­day in co­or­di­na­tion with U.S. agen­cies track­ing the hostages along the border of Pak­istan and Afghanistan.

The Pak­istani govern­ment of­fered scant de­tails of the res­cue ef­fort that freed the fam­ily, and there were con­flict­ing re­ports Thurs­day about whether the cap­tives were se­cured as a re­sult of a han­dover or a shootout.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised the op­er­a­tion as a hope­ful sign that Pak­istan “is hon­or­ing Amer­ica’s wishes for it to do more to pro­vide se­cu­rity in the re­gion.”

Only about a month ago, Trump slammed the Pak­istani govern­ment for ac­cept­ing “bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars” in U.S. aid while “hous­ing the very ter­ror­ists we are fight­ing.” In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the mis­sion, the pres­i­dent sug­gested that his tough words had prompted a change in Pak­istani be­hav­ior.

“They worked very hard on this, and I be­lieve they’re start­ing to re­spect the United States again,” Trump said. “It’s very im­por­tant.”

But cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials said it is un­clear whether the Pak­istani ac­tion rep­re­sents a sin­gle event or a more sub­stan­tive change in pol­icy.

U.S. of­fi­cials have long com­plained that Pak­istan’s in­abil­ity or un­will­ing­ness to elim­i­nate ex­trem­ist havens along its border with Afghanistan has hin­dered U.S. ef­forts to de­feat the Tal­iban.

Nadeem Kiani, a spokesman for the Pak­istani High Com­mis­sion in Ottawa, said that Boyle, Cole­man and their chil­dren were taken over the border from Afghanistan to Pak­istan in the tribal area of Kur­ram on Wed­nes­day by their ab­duc­tors. U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, who had been track­ing their move­ments, pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to Pak­istan’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vice, which planned the op­er­a­tion that se­cured the fam­ily’s re­lease.

“They are safe, and they are be­ing repa­tri­ated to their coun­try of ori­gin, Kiani said.

At the Cole­man home in Ste­wart­stown, Pa., a sign on the door read, in part: ” We know there is much in­ter­est in the joy­ful news that they’ve fi­nally been re­leased, and are over­whelmed with grat­i­tude and emo­tion. At this time, as we fo­cus on their well be­ing and make plans for our fam­ily’s fu­ture, we re­spect­fully ask for some pri­vacy.“

Boyle was pre­vi­ously mar­ried to the sis­ter of Omar Khadr, once the youngest de­tainee at the U.S. mil­i­tary de­ten­tion cen­ter at Guan­tá­namo Bay, Cuba. Khadr pleaded guilty to mur­der, among other charges, at a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion be­fore be­ing re­turned to Canada in 2012 to serve out his sen­tence. He was re­leased in 2015.

Cole­man and Boyle were ab­ducted in Oc­to­ber 2012 while trav­el­ing in Afghanistan and were held by the Haqqani net­work, a mil­i­tant fac­tion with ties to the Tal­iban.

Cole­man was preg­nant when she was cap­tured, and the cou­ple had three chil­dren, all of whom were born while their par­ents were be­ing held cap­tive.

In a video re­leased late last year, the cou­ple said they feared their fam­ily could be ex­e­cuted in re­tal­i­a­tion for Western at­tacks and pres­sure on mil­i­tants.

“We have waited since 2012 for some­body to un­der­stand our problems, the Kafkaesque night­mare in which we find our­selves,” Cole­man said in the video.

Youtube

Cait­lan Cole­man, Joshua Boyle and their chil­dren, seen in a video re­leased by the Tal­iban in 2016, were freed af­ter U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, who had been track­ing their move­ments, pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to Pak­istan’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vice.

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