Will hostage rescue aid U.s.-pakistan relations?
Family had been held by group with ties to the Taliban
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.
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.