WASHINGTON — The Pakistani Army rescued an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children all born while the couple were held hostage by the Haqqani network after their 2012 kidnapping.
Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle had been on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan when they were seized. Coleman was pregnant with their first child at the time.
The family was reportedly rescued while they were being transported in a vehicle; Pakistani operatives shot out the tires before engaging the terrorist captors. According to a press release from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations, they were freed “from terrorist custody through an intelligence based operation by Pakistan troops and intelligence agencies.”
“U.S. intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting across to Pakistan on 11 Oct 2017 through Kurram Agency border. The operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities was successful; all hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin,” the government statement continued. “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.”
In December, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., who leads the Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the Haqqani network still poses “the greatest threat to Americans and to our coalition partners and to the Afghans.”
“They remain a principal concern of ours. And they do enjoy sanctuary inside Pakistan,” he said.
The Haqqanis are allies of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In September 2011 they attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO bases in Kabul; in 2012, they attacked a U.S. base in Khost province.
However, the newly rescued family has refused to fly back to the United States. Boyle, who was once briefly married to the sister of fellow Canadian and former Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr, is reportedly nervous about suffering some sort of punitive action because of that connection.
“We had arrangements to transport them back to the United States or to Canada any way they wanted to go. Medical treatment along the way. A lot of this, of course, would be psychological treatment. They’ve been essentially living in a hole for five years. I mean, that’s the kind of people we’re dealing with over there,” White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters today. “Luckily, and thank God that the Pakistani officials took them into custody, so to speak, from the forces of evil in that part of the world, and they’re being cared for now as we speak.”
At a White House event today, President Trump thanked Pakistan and declared the government’s cooperation “a sign that it is honoring America’s wish that it do more to provide security in the region.”
“We want to thank Pakistan,” Trump added. “They worked very hard on this, and I believe they’re starting to respect the United States again.”
Kelly said that “roughly 20” Americans were held hostage by the Haqqani network before Coleman and her three American citizen children were rescued.
“Let me just say the Pakistanis, they’re great partners in this regard that they are. And I don’t think — I think there’s been a change,” Kelly said. “Hopefully, there will be a change in the cooperative relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale, a career foreign service officer appointed to the post in 2015, was instrumental in securing the release in efforts that “reflect the best of what America can accomplish.”
“The United States also expresses our deep gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation,” Tillerson said. “President Trump’s new South Asia strategy recognizes the important role Pakistan needs to play to bring stability and ultimately peace to the region. The United States is hopeful that Pakistan’s actions will further a U.S.-Pakistan relationship marked by growing commitments to counterterrorism operations and stronger ties in all other respects.”
A note left on the door of Coleman’s parents’ home in Stewartstown, Pa., today hailed the “joyful news,” asked for privacy and asked reporters not to knock.
“We’ve now reduced the number of hostages by almost a third,” Kelly said. “But that’s not to take away from all of the unfortunate people that are still being held hostage.”