WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump praised Pakistan on Thursday for helping secure the release of a North American family, held hostage by a Taliban-linked group, and hoped that this cooperation would continue in future joint counterterrorism operations as well.
President Trump diverted from a speech he was delivering at the White House on his administration’s tax reforms to announce the couple’s release and to highlight the Pakistan government’s role in this rescue operation.
“Yesterday, the United States government, working in conjunction with the government of Pakistan, secured the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan,” he said.
“We hope to see this type of cooperation and team work in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations,” he added.
Says Pakistan’s cooperation is a sign that it’s ‘honouring America’s wishes for it to do more’
Minutes before the speech, the White House issued a statement, stating that in 2012, Caitlan Coleman, an American citizen, and her husband, Joshua Boyle, a Canadian, were taken captive and held hostage allegedly by the Haqqani network. Ms Coleman gave birth to the couple’s three children while they were in captivity.
“Today they are free. This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan,” it added.
Reading the same statement at the White House event, President Trump said the Pakistani government’s cooperation was a sign that it’s “honouring America’s wishes for it to do more” to provide security in the region.
After reading the written statement, the US president added his personal gratitude to Pakistan, saying: “I want to thank the Pakistani government. I want to thank Pakistan.”
Noting that the Pakistanis “worked very hard on this,” he said: “I believe they are starting to respect the United States again. It’s very important. I think, right now, a lot of countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again.”
The statement came after the Pakistani military announced the release of the two hostages, freed after more than five years in captivity. Ms Coleman and Mr Boyle were abducted while travelling in Afghanistan in Oct 2012.
The US media, while reporting Mr Trump’s reaction to the rescue operation, noted that the president had previously been deeply critical of Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorist groups. In his Aug 19 speech to announce the new US strategy for South Asia, Mr Trump also blamed Pakistan for nurturing terrorists.
“Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people,” he said. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.”
The speech annoyed Pakistan and the Pakistani parliament urged US leaders to treat their country with dignity and stop blaming it for their failures in Afghanistan.
The first sign of a change in President Trump’s attitude towards Pakistan was noticed in a speech he delivered in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, alluding to the hostage rescue and hailing it as a turning point in the US-Pakistan relationship.
“Something happened today where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news,” he said.
“It was a great sign of respect,” he added. “You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. But 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.”
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017