Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman – a Canadian-American couple was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012. Following an operation by Pakistani security forces, with intelligence inputs, the couple was rescued in October second week, along with three children born during the captivity.
While the development is a welcome and everyone who is part of this process should be congratulated, this has also raised few uncomfortable questions for the US and Pakistan.
First, were the couple and children “secured” by an operation, or “released” by the Huqqani group, who is believed to be their captor? This is important, for the first one would suggest a positive and affirmative action by the security forces, and the latter a collusion.
Second, the place from where the abducted family was secured/released. Did it happen, as they were crossing into Pakistani territory in the trial areas of FATA, or did it happen in the settled district of Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkwa? The intelligence agencies in Pakistan seem to highlight the former, while news reports from Pakistan indicate the latter. According to an ISPR statement, “US 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 US authorities was successful.” Clearly, the statement hints about the episode-taking place in the border.
Media reports suggests otherwise. According to available reports, drones were repeatedly spotted in the area where the abducted family was finally recovered. This would suggest a strong and irrefutable intelligence by the Americans that the Pakistani intelligence agencies could not refute, other than help secure the process.
Perhaps, for Pakistan the operation would help build its own image vis-à-vis the US; an American delegation led by Lisa Curtis was visiting Pakistan, when the hostages were secured/released. There is no proof to link the two, but a strange coincidence it is.
Third is a larger question: why would the captors bring their victims into Pakistan, after kidnapping them in Afghanistan five years ago? And when did they bring them into Pakistan? Once the dust settles, and the kidnapped couple starts speaking, one could get to know more about how they were kidnapped by the Huqqanis in Afghanistan, and transported into Pakistan. It would also reveal the safe havens that the group and its affiliates have with Pakistan.