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Dec 22, 2016

How Trump can respond to US hostage appeal, CNN.com

How Trump can respond to US hostage appeal
Peter Bergen
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst
Updated 11:58 AM ET, Wed December 21, 2016
Couple abducted, kids born in captivity

Story highlights
Peter Bergen: Video appeal to President-elect by kidnapped American is unprecedented
It’s long past time for hostages of Haqqani Network to be returned home, Bergen says

Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor at Arizona State University. He is the author of “United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists.”

(CNN)In an unprecedented public appeal to an incoming president, kidnapped American citizen Caitlin Coleman addressed President-elect Donald Trump directly in a video, urging him to secure the release of her and her family.

The video, released Monday by the Taliban, underlines the continuing plight of Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33, who have been held captive in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region for more than four years.

The video shows Coleman and Boyle as well as their two young sons, who were born in captivity and are now toddlers. It is the first time there has been a “proof of life” of the children.

One of the boys sucks on a pacifier while his mother addresses the camera. Coleman, wearing a black burqa, speaks clearly and forcedly, saying: “Today is December 3, 2016. We have waited since 2012 for somebody to understand our problems, the Kafkaesque nightmare in which we find ourselves.”

Coleman and Boyle were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012 while on a backpacking trip.

In the video, Coleman addresses President Barack Obama, saying, “Your legacy on leaving office is probably important to you,” and she urges him to act to secure her family’s release.

Coleman also addresses the President-elect, saying that the Haqqanis “are not going to simply release our family easily, because it is correct. They want money, power and friends. … We are told there are Afghans who are prisoners in Kabul that these men care about.”

This is a reference to Anas Haqqani, the brother of the head of the Haqqani terrorist organization, who is in an Afghan prison. Haqqani was arrested in 2014, and an Afghan court convicted him in August of raising money for the group.

The Haqqanis have threatened to kill Coleman and Boyle if the Afghan government carries out the death sentence it has imposed on Anas Haqqani.

The United States and Canada have an opportunity to secure the release of Coleman, Boyle and their sons by interceding with the Afghan government to negotiate an exchange for Anas Haqqani, who is not regarded as a leader of the Haqqani Network.

The incoming Trump administration will have tremendous leverage over the Afghan government, which is hoping for a continued American presence in the country.
But it is not just Coleman and her family who are being held.

At a Pentagon briefing this month, Gen. John Nicholson, the overall commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said that the Haqqanis are holding five Americans. Those Americans are Coleman and her two sons; Kevin King, a professor who was kidnapped in Kabul in August; and another American whose name is being withheld by CNN at the request of his family.

The Haqqanis are also holding Boyle and an Australian who was abducted in Kabul in August.
Donald Trump prides himself on the art of the deal. With that in mind, he should use the leverage he has to secure the release of the American and other Western hostages held by the Haqqanis in exchange for Anas Haqqani.

It’s long past time for all these men, women and children to be returned home.

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