WASHINGTON: The US is hoping for a positive change in its troubled ties with Pakistan after Islamabad secured the release of an American-Canadian family from the clutches of the Haqqani terror network, five years after they were abducted.
American citizen Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle along with their three children were rescued from the Haqqani network yesterday after an operation by Pakistani forces based on intelligence from the US authorities.
The couple were kidnapped in 2012 in Afghanistan while on a backpacking trip. Their three children were born while the pair was in captivity.
"Let me just say, the Pakistanis -- they're great partners in this regard. They are. I think there's been a change. Hopefully, there will be a change in the cooperative relationship between the US and Pakistan," White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told reporters at a news conference here.
"The good news is that Pakistan officials got the custody of the American citizens, took them into custody and held them for us," said Kelly.
He said the US administration had made arrangements for the family's immediate return to either the US or Canada.
"We have also arranged for their medical treatment along the way. A lot of this, of course, would be psychological treatment. They've been essentially living in a hole for five years," he said.
Trump had slammed Pakistan for its continued support to terrorist groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so while announcing his Afghan and south Asia policy in August.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert also credited the Pakistani government for the couple's release.
"We are tremendously happy to have these folks returning, coming home. This could not have happened without the assistance of Pakistan. We are very pleased with the government of Pakistan's response," she said.
Heather said although the relationship between the two nations had its challenges, the latest development was a "start" in the right direction.
"That relationship isn't going to just turn around overnight, but this is a terrific step in the right direction," she said.
Congressman Scott Perry applauded the efforts by the Trump administration in securing the family's release.
"Today, we celebrate the safe return of Caitlan and her family and look forward to their swift return to the United States. I speak with Caitlan's parents regularly, and haven't stopped praying since our first meeting for a positive end to this nightmare," said Perry.
Colin Cookman, who coordinates research work on South Asia at the US Institute of Peace, said the release of the family was a case of close operational cooperation between the two nations.
"The release of this family is something the US has been seeking for a long time. It might provide a short-term opening for more constructive engagement," he said.