The “heroic” operation by the Pakistan army to free a Canadian hostage of the Taliban/Haqqani network, and his wife and children, was another of the symbolic actions by which the United States continues to pin faith in Pakistan as a counter-terror force. Such symbolic acts as the “capture” of a militant or the freeing of a hostage deflect attention from the many ways in which Pakistan’s ISI is keeping alive the Taliban as a deadly force against the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul. Even US President Donald Trump seems to have been taken in by this latest staged “rescue” of the hostages from their “Taliban captors”, a change of mood that Pakistan expects will ensure greater US pressure on Kabul to induct elements of the Taliban into the government, thereby sabotaging any chances for a terrorist-free Afghanistan from within.

The Trump administration has apparently been fed the “information” on the “heroic operation” by those in Washington who accept as gospel truth whatever gets conveyed to them by the Pakistan army, an institution that retains several backers in the CIA and the Pentagon.

Not a single Taliban militant was hurt in the “armed rescue” operation, which was presented as being carried out by the Pakistan army “against the Taliban” to rescue the American woman, Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle and their three children, who were held hostage by the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban since October 2012. Incidentally, the Haqqani network is dependent on the Pakistan military for its survival, something that seems to be ignored by the effusive US official reaction to the stage-managed “hostage rescue”.

The details of the operation were told to The Sunday Guardian by a high ranking Taliban official, Zabihullah Mujahid, who is also the spokesperson of the group. Zabihullah’s clarification came after the parents of the hostage Joshua Boyle said that five Taliban kidnappers were killed in the “rescue operation” carried out by the Pakistan army to secure the hostages. 

Security experts, who track the Taliban, say that as a matter of practice, the Taliban do not hide the details of their men who are killed in any kind of “operation”, and would have confirmed the deaths, had they taken place.

Earlier, the parents of Joshua Boyle had released a statement in the media based on the telephonic conversation with their son soon after his release. It said that the rescue operation took place while the family was locked in the trunk of a car. As per the parents, the last words that Joshua Boyle heard before being “rescued” was “kill the hostages”; a shootout erupted soon after that. According to Joshua Boyle, five kidnappers were shot dead. While replying to queries seeking details of the “rescue operation” and whether the Taliban lost any men in the “operation”, or if Pakistan or American army personnel were injured or killed, Zabihullah stated, “none of our people were hurt in the operation”.

He also denied that the Taliban had raped the woman, terming the charge as “absolutely wrong”, while refusing to share any further information on reports that the Taliban was paid money to secure their release. Media reports emerging from Pakistan have stated that the Pakistan military had freed the family in an “an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops”, with Pakistan’s high commissioner to Canada, Tariq Azim Khan, saying, “We know there was a shootout and Pakistan commandos carried out an attack and rescued the hostages.” As per media reports emanating from Pakistan, the “operation” to free the family, unfolded quickly and ended with a bullet-spattered raid, a shootout and a captor’s final threat to “kill the hostage”. Boyle suffered only a shrapnel wound, his family said.

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