Washington: CIA chief Mike Pompeo has said a US-Canadian couple kidnapped by militants in Afghanistan had been held for five years inside Pakistan before being freed, contradicting the Pakistan Army’s claim that the hostages were rescued shortly after entering the country from Afghanistan.
“The couple had been held for five years inside Pakistan,” Pompeo said on Thursday during a wide-ranging discussion at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a Washington-based think-tank.
His remarks contradicts the Pakistan Army which had said in a statement that the hostages “were captured by terrorists from Afghanistan during 2012 and kept as hostages there.”
Caitlan Coleman, an American citizen, and her husband Joshua Boyle, a Canadian citizen, were kidnapped in 2012 in Afghanistan while on a backpacking trip.
Coleman, 31, was pregnant at the time of abduction. All of the couple’s three children were born in captivity.
The Pakistan Army statement issued on October 12 did not identify the group which had held the family captive, but the US leadership have blamed Haqqani Network as the perpetrators.
After the recovery of hostages, the Pakistan military officials emphasised the importance of co-operation and intelligence sharing by Washington.
“The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy,” the Army statement said.
The operation came at a time when Pakistan is trying to rebuild bilateral ties frayed after President Donald Trump accused the country of sheltering terror groups.
Trump, in August, had accused Pakistan of harbouring “agents of chaos and terror” and the “very enemy US forces have fighting in Afghanistan” for the past 17 years.
Last week, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had said his country was ready for a joint operation with the US to destroy the Haqqani Network if it provides evidence about the presence of safe havens of the dreaded terror outfit in Pakistan.
The Haqqani network has carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan. The group is also blamed for several deadly attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people.
US officials believe Pakistan’s spy agency ISI maintains close ties with the Haqqani Network and provides safe havens to its top leadership.
“I think history would indicate that the high expectations for the Pakistanis’ willingness to help us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism should be set at a very low level,” the CIA chief said.
President Trump has “made it very clear that we are going to do everything we can to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. To do that, you cannot have a safe haven in Pakistan. The intelligence is very clear,” he warned.
Pompeo said “to achieve the objective that the president has set forth in Afghanistan, the capacity of terrorists to cross along the Afghan border and freely hide in Pakistan is prohibited in our capacity to deliver that and so mission is to ensure that safe haven does not exist”.