On October 12, 2017, American citizen Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle, along with their three children, were rescued from Taliban captivity in a manner that has shed light on the toxic nature of U.S.-Pakistan relations. The U.S.-Canadian couple were captured by the Haqqani Network of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization backed by the Pakistani military) in 2012 in Afghanistan and their three children were born in captivity.
As per the version of the story released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the Pakistani military, Pakistani security forces carried out the rescue operation after the U.S. intelligence agencies gave actionable information that the U.S.-Canadian family was being transferred from Afghanistan to Pakistan.This version of the story released by the ISPR has proved to be false. However, it does appear that the U.S. and Pakistan collaborated in the operation.
In a statement released by the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been critical about Pakistan's role in sheltering Taliban jihadis, lauded Pakistan for the operation, saying: "This is a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region. We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations."
Trump's praise was seen as a Pakistani trap into which the U.S. was falling again, especially because the Pakistani military is known for pursuing a dual policy of supporting the Taliban on the one hand and organizing the facade of such rescue missions and counter-terror operations to remain in economically fruitful relations with the U.S. Although the Pakistani version sought to impress that the kidnapped couple was kept by the jihadis in Afghanistan, Caitlan Coleman subsequently went on record to say: "We were not crossing into Pakistan that day. We had been in Pakistan for more than a year at that point."
Commenting on how the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan works as an extended arm of the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and was responsible for a terror attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in September 2011, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee: "The Haqqani Network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency." Given below are excerpts from an article written by Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS, or the Afghan intelligence service), dissecting the toxic relations between the U.S. and Pakistan over decades. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization:
"What Distinguishes Pakistan From Other Junior Partners The World Over Is Its Ability To Escape Punishment Each Time It Hurts The U.S."
"As Afghanistan and the rest of the world analyze President Donald Trump's recent comments on Pakistan, complimenting it on the rescue of a U.S.-Canadian couple and their three children, it is my considered view that Pakistan, as the junior partner in this relationship, does strange things, to the extent of even hurting itself sometimes, because it must attract the attention of its longtime ally and patron, the U.S.
"These stunts by Pakistan have often worked in the past, thereby creating a Pavlovian pattern of success and reward from Washington and other capitals who have from time to time needed Pakistan in the geostrategic great game that has unfolded in South Asia since 1947.
"In any case, junior partners in any partnership must impress the big partner. That is the nature of the partnership. But what distinguishes Pakistan from other junior partners the world over is its ability to escape punishment each time it hurts the U.S... Since the end of the Cold War most acts of terror which took place in the U.S. or have targeted the U.S. have been traced back to Pakistan in one way or the other.
"Yet this solid, smoking evidence of Pakistan's hand in terror has not demerited it from being Washington's ally. Some of us in the region at least are stunned as to how this works. This troubled, yet surviving relationship and partnership between the two countries, has given birth to conspiracy theories ranging from speculation that the U.S., in reality, co-manages the Pakistani nuclear arsenal so it does not fall into the wrong hands, to Pakistan being the blessed master of controlled chaos in the region, to Washington controlling a chaotic Pakistan and thus chaos being a joint product.
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"Or to put it in simple words, without a degree of tolerance from Washington, Pakistan's deep state, or its army intelligence establishment, will sooner than later become an ordinary country that provides both answers and accountability to its own people as well as to the puzzled world community. Perhaps the affairs of the deep state look deep to Pakistanis but there is hardly anything secret or deep about them in Washington's eyes. Or at least that is what we would like to believe."
"It Is An Open Secret In Kabul That The U.S.-Canadian Couple And Their Family That Was Recently Rescued Had Been Kept In [The Pakistani Tribal Regions Of] Waziristan"
"When President Trump announced [on August 20, 2017] his strategy for South Asia, there was a blink of hope that Trump's America would not be fooled by Islamabad's stunts and particularly, the masters of the deep state – the deceiving generals of the Pakistan Army and the terror-loving intelligence service, the ISI [or, the Inter-Services Intelligence] — would not get either praise or reward, as in the past. It was hoped that piecemeal anti-terror talk or action would not be rewarded, in order to bring a meaningful paradigm shift in the behavior and strategies of General Headquarters [GHQ of the Pakistani Army] in Rawalpindi.
"Visiting U.S. dignitaries have been assuring enthusiastic Afghan government leaders and its political class that Washington indeed possesses a long index of Pakistan's tricks and would not be deceived any longer. All of this was music to the ears of Kabul. Afghans continue to pay the highest human cost in the ongoing war against terror and have a right to know Washington's perspective and policies that have direct bearing on their lives.
"However, in yet another stunt drama, the Pakistan army has earned the highest praise from President Trump in the form of a public tweet. When the American University of Afghanistan was attacked [on August 24, 2016,] by the Haqqani Network, its Pakistan-based handlers were in live communication with the suicide attackers, guiding them as to how no mercy should be showed to any student or faculty and how to ensure maximum pain and causality.
"It is an open secret in Kabul that the U.S.-Canadian couple and their family that was recently rescued had been kept in [the Pakistani tribal regions of] Waziristan for some time, in the exact same part of Pakistan where the Pakistan Army only recently declared Mission Accomplished of its [counter-terror] Zarb-e-Azb operation and sent all the bad and unwanted terrorists to Afghanistan."
Caitlan Coleman, Joshua Boyle, and children
"The Western Hostages Were In The Hands Of [So-Called] Good Terrorists, The Ones That Listen To GHQ Rawalpindi [The Headquarters Of Pakistan Army], Don't Hurt Pakistan"
"It seems that the Western hostages were in the hands of [so-called] good terrorists, the ones that listen to GHQ Rawalpindi, do not hurt Pakistan, and, in times of need, dance like circus monkeys for visiting spectators according to the diktat of an ISI colonel. The Western hostages were in the hands of good terrorists [i.e. held by the jihadi group known as the Islamic Emirate, which is sheltered and used by Pakistan]. So, when they were released as a result of a well-planned, well executed surgical operation in which only four tires of a vehicle were punctured, we all laughed.
"At least that is the official story, that professional Pakistan army personnel only fired at the tires of a vehicle in which the hostages were being moved from one location to another. What is the need to damage even the engine of such a vehicle? Better to keep it as low-priced an operation as possible. Perhaps the driver of the vehicle will come in handy when the need arises again to puncture four more tires.
"Better to have an experienced and well-rehearsed asset ready for the next time. To be sure, the next stunt or episode is a matter of 'when,' not a matter of 'if.' To the surprise of experts and pundits of Pakistan studies, both in the region and beyond, the presidential tweet of praise was disappointing, to put it mildly. Has America been deceived once again? Who advised the President to praise the ISI and show disregard to the very index of tricks we had all reckoned Washington had smartened up about? Is there something much bigger and deeper cooking that we, the Afghans, do not know?
"Or was the operation to rescue the U.S.-Canadian couple entirely done by U.S. Special Forces deep inside Pakistan and the price U.S. paid to keep Pakistan silent was a presidential tweet? We, again, do not know. Of course, we would love to know, in order to strengthen our confidence in the new U.S. strategy for South Asia, and especially Afghanistan."
"Dear President Trump... We Appeal To You To Hold Back Your Future Tweets Of Praise For Such Deceitful Acts Of The Pakistani Army And Intelligence"
"Dear President Trump, indeed the release, rescue, or whatever act that was performed to bring five Western hostages back to safety is great news. That is a statement from the bottom of our hearts. But please remember, a few million Afghans are still hostage at the hands of the same group, the reputation and prestige of the U.S. military and NATO is hostage at the hands of the same group, the future of the Western-led world order is hostage at the hands of the same group, and most importantly, your word and promise that you will make America win this 16-year-long war against terror is hostage at the hands of the same group, too.
"We appeal to you to hold back your future tweets of praise for such deceitful acts of the Pakistani army and intelligence until this mission is accomplished. Only then will they merit global recognition and praise. Thousands of American troops' lives are in line in this fight which is strategically guided and supported by Pakistan. We are sure you know this as you have said so yourself, much clearer and better than any other American or Western leader.
"Pakistan has a history of doing less to gain more. We should work together so we can pay the right price for the right work at the right time. Let's work hard to rescue millions of other hostages before praising the Pakistan army and intelligence who are the masterminds of the ongoing bloody conflict and violence in Afghanistan and in parts of the wider region."