Pakistan trumps US forces, recovers American hostages

Trump lauds recovery of kidnapped couple, says positive moment for Pak-US relations

 ‘Pakistani govt’s cooperation is sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in region’

ISPR says Pak Army, ISI recover five western hostages from terrorist custody through an intelligence-based operation by troops, agencies.

Source says ISI facilitated a deal with Haqqanis for safe release of captives

 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Thursday announced it had recovered a family of five foreign hostages from the custody of a terrorist outfit “safe and sound” after it received and acted on intelligence shared by the United States (US).

An official handout issued here by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said officials of Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had recovered five western hostages—including one Canadian national, his US national wife and their three children—from terrorist custody through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops and intelligence agencies.

Though there was no mention of what happened to the captors, as no arrest was mentioned. Moreover, the official communiqué was also silent on the names of the hostages, though it is believed that the ISPR had referred to Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle who had been abducted from Afghanistan in 2012 while on a backpacking trip, and their three children—all of whom were born in captivity.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump also announced that the US and Pakistani officials had secured the release of the family from Taliban captivity.

He identified the kidnapped couple as Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle, and said their release was a “positive moment” for US relations with Pakistan.

“Ms Coleman gave birth to the couple’s three children while they were in captivity,” Trump said, in a White House statement. “Today, they are free.” Boyle and Coleman were kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban during a backpacking trip in Afghanistan 2012.

However, Trump said that the family had been held hostage by the Haqqani network, “a terrorist organisation with ties to the Taliban.”

“We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counter-terrorism operations,” he maintained.

“This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan,” Trump added, saying, “The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”

Trump has made getting tougher with Pakistan in an effort to get them to crackdown on the Taliban a central tenet of his recently announced strategy for Afghanistan and the wider region.

“We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations,” Trump said in the statement.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Thursday that the successful recovery of the family was what was being referenced Wednesday when Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania that “something happened today where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news.”

Trump did not disclose what country or any details involved but said: “One of my generals came in and they said, you know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would have never done that.”

“This is a country that did not respect us, this is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me,” Trump said appearing to reference Pakistan and that country’s role in bringing about the recovery of the four hostages.

A senior US official told CNN that US intelligence assets had detected and monitored the movement of vehicles that the US assessed to contain the family.

US officials provided this new intelligence to the Pakistani authorities and US officials even began unilaterally discussing a possible US-staged rescue attempt.

However, to the surprise of the US government, the Pakistani authorities soon called back their US counterparts, informing them that they had taken custody of all five family members.

“That was a surprise to us,” the official said.

Boyle and Coleman appeared in a hostage video in December last year with two of their children pleading for their release.

The video was released after rumours swirled in Kabul that the government was planning to execute Anas Haqqani, son of the Haqqani network’s founder, who has been held since 2014.

The Taliban are also believed to be holding American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weekes, both professors at the American University of Afghanistan, who were dragged from their vehicles in Kabul by gunmen in August last year.

US Special Operations forces conducted a secret raid authorised by then-President Barack Obama to rescue them, but the hostages were not there, the Pentagon said at the time. They most recently appeared in a hostage video released in June this year.

The ISPR further said: “They (hostages) were captured by terrorists from Afghanistan during 2012 and kept as hostages there. US intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting across to Pakistan on Oct 11, 2017, through Kurram Agency border. The operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from US authorities was successful; all hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin.”

“The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy,” the statement concluded.

A source privy to the details of the operation informed Pakistan Today that the security agencies had conducted an operation at a house next to a religious seminary in Tank district at the edge of South Waziristan agency to rescue the kidnapped couple, along with their three kids, who had been kept there after they were taken to Pakistan through Kurram border.

“The hostages had only recently been moved (from Afghanistan) to Kurram agency,” the source added.

“We welcome media reports that a family, including US citizens, has been released from captivity,” a US embassy spokesperson in Islamabad said.

A DEAL WITH HAQQANI NETWORK?

On the other hand, a source told Pakistan Today that the release of the hostages was a result of extensive backchannel talks between the US and Haqqani network through Pakistani intelligence agency—the ISI.

“This (release) is primarily a deal between the US and Haqqani network, who had kept the couple captive since 2012. As a quid-pro-quo, the Afghanistan government [is expected] to release some Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani—son of the Haqqani network’s founder,” the source added.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also dropped a hint of a deal between the US and Haqqani network for the safe release of the hostages.

In an official statement, Tillerson was quoted as thanking Pakistan for the safe recovery of the hostages taken hostage by Haqqanis. The statement said that the US government, working in conjunction with the government of Pakistan, has secured the release of Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan.

“In 2012, US citizen Caitlan Coleman and Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle were taken hostage by the Haqqani network. Their three children were subsequently born in captivity. Today, they are safe and secure. I applaud the innumerable lines of effort from across the US government. I’m practically proud of Ambassador Hale and his Islamabad mission team for their engagement with Pakistan”.

Tillerson added that these efforts reflect the best of what America can accomplish.

“The United States also expresses our gratitude to the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation. President Trump’s new South Asia strategy recognises the important role Pakistan needs to play to bring stability and ultimately peace to the region,” he added.

The statement added that the US is hopeful that Pakistan’s actions will further improve a US-Pakistan relationship marked by growing commitments to counterterrorism operations and stronger ties in all other respects.

It is crucial to mention that CNN spoke to Boyle’s parents—Patrick and Linda Boyle—who have spoken to their son since his being freed from captivity. Patrick Boyle said that all of the recovered family members are OK. The parents also learned for the first time that they now have a granddaughter.

In another revelation, a US official said Joshua Boyle refused to board a US military C-130 bound for the US because “he thinks he will face law enforcement and possible arrest,” though there is no indication at this time that he will face arrest.

The official said there are “some questions surrounding his past.” Boyle was previously married to the sister of Omar Kadhr—a Canadian citizen who was imprisoned for 10 years at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after fighting US troops in Afghanistan. Kadhr later sued the Canadian government for violating international law by allegedly not protecting its citizen and conspiring with his US captors, who he says abused him.

 

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions.



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2 Comments

  1. Douglas Gray said:

    A young man in Saudi Arabia, Ahmad-al-Shamri, was sentenced to death and put in prison for renouncing Islam in favor of atheism. This is also terrorism, and the Saudi Arabian Government and Court System is a terrorist organization for having done this. Such an act is the moral equivalent of the Nazi’s sentencing Jews and Gypsies to death.

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