Pakistan Secures Release of American Family Held Hostage for 5 Years

Freedom for Caitlan Coleman, husband, and three children followed Trump pressure on Islamabad

Caitlan Coleman and family

Caitlan Coleman and family in a Taliban proof of life video / Screenshot via YouTube

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The government of Pakistan, under pressure from President Trump to do more against Islamic terrorism, secured the release of an American mother and her family after five years captivity at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, and three children, including a very young child, were freed from control of the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network terrorist group Wednesday night and were in Pakistani government custody awaiting transfer to American officials.

The years’ long hostage case was resolved after the Islamabad government notified the U.S. government several days ago it had located the family and was close to securing their release.

President Trump said in a statement the U.S. government, working with the Pakistani government secured the family’s release.

"Today they are free," Trump said. "This is a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the 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."

"We're tremendously grateful to the government of Pakistan for securing the release of Caitlan Coleman and her family," said a senior official.

"The relationship with Pakistan has had its challenges but this is exactly the kind of action that will put the relationship on the right track. This could be a new beginning."

A U.S. military official said the operation to assist with the release of the family was sidelined after the husband, Canadian national Joshua Boyle, refused to board a U.S. C-130 aircraft. The reasons are unclear but Boyle appeared to fear arrest, the official said.

The family remains in Pakistani custody until travel arrangements are worked out, possibly involving Canadian government travel, the official said.

The release surprised many in the U.S. government since the action marks a departure from Islamabad's lukewarm cooperation with the United States against terrorism in the past.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said in the past Pakistan's ISI intelligence service had been known to support Afghan terrorists groups.

Trump criticized Pakistan in a major speech in August outlining a new strategy to dealing with the war in Afghanistan.

Trump identified the United States' tougher approach to Pakistan as a key pillar of the administration's new strategy toward the war in Afghanistan.

"We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond," Trump said in the Aug. 21 speech.

Trump said Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States in Afghanistan and "much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists."

The president said in his speech that Pakistan had sheltered terrorist organizations that were killing Americans. "We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," he said.

"But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace," Trump said.

Coleman, her husband Josua Boyle, and two of her children were last heard of during a proof-of-life video made public in December in which she urged then-President Obama to secure their release before leaving office.

Officials said a robust U.S. diplomatic effort in support of Coleman has been under way for the past several months and gained momentum when the Pakistani government contacted U.S. officials to say they had located the family and were arranging for their release.

The family was held as hostages by the Haqqani Network, a faction of the Islamist Taliban terror group currently the target of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan.

They were captured in 2012 while hiking in Wardak Province, near Kabul. Coleman was pregnant at the time with their first child.

Officials said the location of the family that includes three small children, had been the subject of intensive U.S. intelligence and military operations.

"We'd only been able to get very few indications of where they were located," said one U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The Haqqani Network is believed to have kept the family in isolation in the remote border region of Waziristan, located along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the Director of National Intelligence, the Haqqani Network is a Sunni Islamist terror group founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who first emerged during the 1980s as an Afghan warlord opposing the Soviet Union.

Haqqani was part of the Hezb-e Islami faction headed by mujahedin commander Younis Khalis.

Haqqani was an associate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin and was regarded as a close mentor to bin Ladin, according to the DNI.

The Haqqani network is currently headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son.

The main operating area for the group is North Waziristan, Pakistan.

"The Haqqanis are considered the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group targeting U.S., coalition, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan; they typically conduct coordinated small-arms assaults coupled with rocket attacks, IEDs, suicide attacks, and attacks using bomb-laden vehicles," the DNI said.

In the video made public in December, Coleman said her family's captivity was "Kafkaesque" and that her children had witnessed their mother being defiled.

In the video, she was shown with two children. U.S. officials said the family now has a very young third child, who is being released.

"Please don’t become the next Jimmy Carter," said Coleman stated in the video. "Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face so we can leave the region permanently."

The reference to Carter likely was meant as the failed efforts of Carter to secure the release of American hostages held captive in Iran from 1979 to 1980.

The New York Times reported in December that efforts to broker the release of Coleman were set back as the result of an American military drone strike that killed an Afghan Taliban leader in May 2016.

The Times reported that the Haqqani network had demanded the release of one of its commanders, Anas Haqqani, captured by Afghanistan's government in 2014.

At least two other Americans reportedly are being held hostage by the Haqqanis.

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