Theweekendleader

Taliban hostage rescue: US Seals were ready if Pakistan failed

Washington

18-October-2017

US Navy Seal commandos were ready to conduct a raid inside Pakistan, similar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden, if Islamabad failed to rescue a Canadian-American family seized in 2012 by the Haqqani network, the New York Times said.

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone was circling a remote valley in northwest Pakistan last month when it captured the images of a young woman and children in a militant camp, the Times said. 

To intelligence analysts, she appeared to be the American abducted five years earlier while backpacking in Afghanistan with her Canadian husband.

American Caitlan Coleman and Canadian Joshua Boyle were kidnapped in 2012 in Afghanistan. Coleman, 31, was pregnant at that time. All their three children were born in captivity. Boyle was 34 when rescued.

Calling the images a "breakthrough", the daily cited the American officials as saying that "military planners mobilized members of the Navy's Seal Team 6, an elite group of commandos, to mount a rescue". 

The commandos started rehearsing. The raid was to take place not far from where the CIA had originally spotted the family, said one official. 

But the risky operation planned on Pakistani soil was called off because some in the US government were not certain that the people spotted by the drones were Coleman, Boyle and their children, according to the officials. 

Days later, the CIA watched in alarm as militants drove the family out of the camp and across Pakistan's lawless tribal lands close to Afghanistan. 

American officials formed a plan to push the Pakistani government to act. Trump was briefed and Defence Secretary James Mattis and State Secretary Rex Tillerson both backed the idea that if Islamabad declined to rescue the family, the Navy Seals would go in.

US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale told Islamabad: "Resolve this, or the US will."

The Times said: "The implication was clear. If the Pakistanis did not act decisively, the US would set aside its unease and launch a raid deep inside the country to free the family.

"It would be another humiliating episode for the Pakistani government, reminiscent of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, conducted by the same elite Navy SEAL commandos well into Pakistan without its government's knowledge. 

"And a failure to act would underscore American officials' belief that the Pakistani government gives safe haven to the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that had kidnapped the family," it said.

Pakistani officials said they acted within hours. 

With assistance from American intelligence, they located the vehicle and rescued the family last week in a dramatic confrontation with its captors. 

Inside the car were Coleman, Boyle and their three children.

Trump administration officials described the rescue as a win for Pakistan without publicly acknowledging that officials there had to be pressured into conducting the operation.

"This is a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan," President Trump had said.

The family's time as hostages was harsh. Boyle has said that his wife was raped and that the Taliban killed one of their children shortly after birth, an allegation the militants denied. 

Coleman gave birth four times in captivity.

Although Pakistan kept saying that it had no knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, he was located in a safe house at Abbottabad, 130 km from Rawalpindi. The Al Qaeda leader died in the US commando operation. His body was dumped in the sea.  - IANS