The U.S. media and government is too distracted by the presidential election to pay attention to American hostages in Afghanistan.
“Our captors are terrified of their own mortality approaching,” read Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle in a video uploaded online. He and his American wife, Caitlin Coleman are being held in Afghanistan by the Haqqani Network.
The video is an English message: unless other countries influence Afghanistan to stop executing Taliban-linked prisoner, the Haqqani will retaliate by killing the Western couple and their two children.
Coleman also appears in the short video with a direct appeal to the American government, “…I ask if my government can do anything to change the policies of the Afghan government…” If not, she explains, their captors will not only kill her and her husband, but their children as well.
The couple are believed to have two children from their time held in Afghanistan. The husband and wife went backpacking in the mountains in 2012. Coleman was pregnant at the time. It is believed she had a second son while in captivity.
The date of the video is not known, and the U.S. State Department is currently “examining” it. The Associated Press could not independently verify the video. Thought there is some suggestion that the video was made months ago after the handing of six Taliban prisoners, or even earlier in 2015.
This will be the first appearance of the couple since a video given to family in 2013. The release of the clip now is believed to be tied to a recent Afghan ruling to execute Anas Haqqani, the Haqqani’s second-in-command, brother to their leader and son of the terrorist network’s founder.
Yet, the possible execution of an American hostage seems to be low on the list of network news stories during an election year, even though the story definitely prompts many unanswered questions. Not the least of which is: why didn’t the American government prioritize the release of a mother and her young children?
Perhaps it’s because Coleman and her husband were kidnapped by the same organization that captured now-free U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. In fact, Coleman, along with Canadian captive Colin Rutherford, even got a cameo mention on the popular podcast “Serial,” when the series covered Bergdahl.
Rutherford was released earlier this year following efforts by the governments of Canada and Qatar. Rutherford was also kidnapped in Afghanistan, but Army Special Forces Lt. Col. Jason Amerine believed he was held in Pakistan at some point.
The US Special Forces Officer testified before the U.S. Senate in June 2015, saying, “Colin Rutherford, Joshua Boyle, Caitlin Coleman and the child she bore in captivity are still hostages in Pakistan. I failed them.”
Amerine told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that all the Taliban-linked hostages from the U.S. and Canada could have been freed if bureaucratic stalling and in-fighting hadn’t prevented his success.
In addition to American failures to bring Coleman home (even with other prisoners safely back on this side of the Atlantic), there is the question of Boyle’s dubious connections. Coleman’s husband was formerly married to Zaynab Khadr, whose family has links to al-Qaeda.
A Canadian friend of Boye’s wrote the Haqqani captive is just agood person with a strong sense of injustice. Boyle advocated on behalf of Khadr’s brother, Omar, who spent ten years in Guantanamo Bay. Their father, and Egyptian-Canadian was also accused of terrorism. Khadr herself had already been married twice and claimed Osama bin-Laden attended one of her weddings. She had multiple other family members arrested for terrorism.
Boyle claimed to be an expert on terrorism, telling the press in 2009 that he authored many Wikipedia articles on the subject. When he married Khadr, Boyle was a devout Christian, but some coworkers say he converted to Islam after their divorce. He met Coleman online, and married her a year after his divorce from Khadr. The following year, they began traveling and doing humanitarian work, starting in Latin America and later heading to Afghanistan.
It should be noted, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have developed a strong alliance in the past year. Both groups have a growing presence in Afghanistan, in addition to a new surge from ISIS.
Notwithstanding any arguments over the danger she placed herself in while pregnant, by choosing to go to a hostile country in the first place, if Coleman and her family are still alive, one would hope the U.S. would pull out all the stops to bring them home. But an unnamed source recently told Fox News they didn’t think there was a good chance this would happen: “The 5-for-1 [swap for Bergdahl] and the Iran ‘non-ransom’ made negotiations harder. We aren’t getting them back for free, obviously, so the strategy is to pay as little as possible in gold and political capital through third parties. But we repeatedly inflated the cost of hostages and made this worse for ourselves.”
This story leaves to many questions unanswered. What hasn’t the White House prioritized the release of an American mother and children held hostage? What connection might exist between Boyle and known terrorist organizations? But as long as their release looks unlikely, and the mainstream media fails to bring Coleman’s plight into the national dialogue, we may never have those answers.