Haqqani network's release of hostages raises concerns over possible quid pro quo

Haqqani network's release of hostages raises concerns over possible quid pro quo
From CBC - October 13, 2017

The release of a Canadian-American family held hostage by the Haqqani network has cast a spotlight on the lesser-known terror group. It also has raised questions about what the network might have received in return.

The kidnapping of Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife,Caitlan Coleman, fits into the group'spattern of violence on Western targets. Kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012, the family was kept alive and ultimately freed Wednesday in neighbouring Pakistan.

Their release comes as Pakistan feels increased pressure from the U.S. to annihilatemilitant groups such as the Haqqani network which is based in North Waziristan, a region of northwest Pakistan along the border with Afgnaistan.

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said the Haqqanis, combined with the Taliban, pose "the greatest threats to security" in the country. The groupa Taliban offshoot also connected to al-Qaedawas long said to be shielded by elements within Pakistan's security establishment.

"Their senior leaders remain insulated from pressure and enjoy freedom of action within Pakistan safe havens," Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, told a U.S. Senate committee in February.

The release of Boyle and Coleman and their three childrencould be a sign that insulation is thinning.

In a landmark speech in August, U.S. President Donald Trump spelled out his vision for the region, criticizing Pakistan for harbouring "agents of chaos, violence, and terror." It signalled a continuation of the Obama administration's line that Pakistan must do more to root out militant groups.

Pakistan feels U.S. pressure

Escalating tension between the U.S. and Pakistan mighthave directly led to the hostages arelease, saysSajjan Gohel, of the London-based think-tank Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Pakistan "had to exert that pressure back onto the Haqqanis" to illustrate authorities were taking action, Gohel said.

Trump said the joint U.S.-Pakistani rescue operation was a "positive moment" for the two countries' relationship. Indeed, the terror group provides a prime target for Pakistan to illustrate its willingness to crack down on criminal organizations.

"This is the group that the U.S. has most focused on," said Laurel Miller, a foreign policy analyst at the Rand Corporation who served as theacting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. State Department.

Labelled a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2012, the network is now led by SirajuddinHaqqani, son of the group's founder,Jalaluddin Haqqani.

At what price?


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