Pakistani media has ridiculed the American version that the CIA had tipped off the hostage family’s movement from Afghanistan’s tribal area into Pakistan. Indeed, questions are being asked why the Americans acted now, after five years, and only after the hostage family had moved into Pakistan. Why did they not act when the hostages were still in Afghanistan….writes Rifan Ahmed Khan
US-born Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their children were “rescued” by Pakistani forces after locating them in the mountainous Kurram Valley region that borders Afghanistan. A happy ending for a sad story. But the duration of the tragedy suffered by this young family raises questions? Why the delay in rescuing a couple with three children?
Their tail twisted by the Americans, Pakistan delivered the Canadian-American family held hostage by the Haqqani network for over five years — and then Islamabad took credit for repairing its strained Pak-American relations. This is very much in keeping with the way Pakistan has all along ‘fought’ terrorism that it has generated, nurtured and exported.
The Pakistani bluff has been called in the latest New York Times story that says that the US had planned Abbottabad-style raid to rescue American-Canadian family.
The message to Pakistan was either you do it, or we will do it. Pakistan was even offered a SEAL attack like the one that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. But its sovereignty in tatters and the serious problems that raid caused within its polity and to its credibility outside, Islamabad, no matter whose government, would have found it very difficult to survive.
The all-powerful army would have been further discredited and could not have moved against the civil government that is already interim, fledgling, the polity facing serious dissensions in the run-up to the general elections due next year. Why, even the US would have invited problems after rescuing the family in this manner since the world has been taking note of the serious American warnings, from President Trump and Tillerson onwards. Pakistan could have cried to the world community that Americans are not just pressuring, but also conducting raids — an aggression.
Pakistani media has ridiculed the American version that the CIA had tipped off the hostage family’s movement from Afghanistan’s tribal area into Pakistan. Indeed, questions are being asked why the Americans acted now, after five years, and only after the hostage family had moved into Pakistan. Why did they not act when the hostages were still in Afghanistan.
The NYT report claims that a CIA drone had last month picked up grainy footage of a young woman and children as it circled an alleged Haqqani network encampment in a remote valley in the Kurram Agency. Local tribals in Pakistan had confirmed citing drones hovering over them. So, there was nothing sudden — no subterfuge.
SEAL Team 6 was subsequently mobilised to mount a rescue mission which would have violated Pakistani airspace, the publication cited senior American officials as saying. They even began rehearsing for the raid, which was to take place close to where the CIA had originally spotted the family, according to a military official quoted by the NYT. However, the operation was called off as some US government officials were not sure that the people spotted by the drones were in fact the abducted hostages, the NYT said. There were also concerns regarding the terrain and the moon, which was reportedly too bright for a night-time airborne raid, the report said.
The Pakistani critics are deliberately missing the unstated part of the whole episode — the Americans wanted to prove that Haqqanis, the captors of the hostages, were being controlled and driven by the ISI and not by Ghani government in Kabul and would only listen to the Pakistani handlers.
Secondly, the NYT story says the Americans had been working on this for long and did not necessarily timed it with the US-Pak meeting taking place in Islamabad. It is only the latter that ught to treat it as some kind of a happy augury, a coincidence, that would bring a ‘happy’ outcome of the talks at which the Americans are actually giving the Pakistanis a severe dressing down.
For the world community, it is a repeat of a story it has chosen to ignore in the past and can well continue to do so, but at its own peril. This was precisely how Musharraf had dealt with them when he sheltered the vanquished Afghan Taliban and nurtured them. Each time a triumphant George Bush sought to tighten the screw on the Pakistanis, Musharraf would pick some Afghans, label them as dangerous terrorists, and hand them over, to be taken to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation. And that is how the Americans ended up with hundreds of Afghans at that interrogation camp with no means to prove their guilt and convict them.
It is a long, continuing story.
The world community that had shown deaf ears when India was pleasing with it on this score, realised this only after 9/11, confirmed it after Mumbai terror attacks. Even the Americans who have increasingly gotten angry with Pakistan, are doing so to serve their shifting interest in South Asia.
The emphasis then and now continues to be a combination of cajoling and coercing Pakistan — the stick and carrot proportion has changed, but not the basic approach, since the US needs Pakistan to enter a landlocked Afghanistan where it has overriding interests and is constantly badgered by the Haqqanis.