ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have been freed after five years as hostages of an extremist group in Afghanistan. We have a few details. All three children were born in captivity. But there are strange twists in this case and many unanswered questions. And for more, we welcome NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Hiya.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: First question - how did they wind up as hostages in Afghanistan?
MYRE: Well, Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Joshua Boyle, they got married in 2011. And they decide to take this six-month hike through Central Asia. And they start off going to the safer places - Kazakhstan, Tajikistan. But they end up going to Afghanistan. And in October 2012, exactly five years ago, they're in a very dangerous place outside Kabul and they're seized by the Haqqani network, this extremist group that's also closely linked to the Taliban. Not only that, she was pregnant, several months pregnant, at the time, had her first child in custody - in captivity and two more since then. We've been hearing occasional news from them with some videos. And here's Caitlan Coleman speaking in a video that was released this past January.
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CAITLAN COLEMAN: I would just like to say to all of my family and extended family and in-laws that if we all come out of this safely and alive, then it will be a miracle.
SIEGEL: It appears they have come out of it safely. What happened? How were they freed?
MYRE: Well, the U.S. and Pakistan cooperated, not a phrase we hear often involving those two countries. But they're both saying that they worked together. The U.S. provided intelligence and the Pakistan military picked them up in western Pakistan, in the border region. Now, there's still a lot of details that are pretty fuzzy here. Whether this was a negotiated release or whether this was a commando-style rescue, we're hearing little versions - a little bit of both right now. Pakistan says it has them and it's going to repatriate them.
SIEGEL: Have we heard from the couple?
MYRE: No. And this is where things start to get pretty strange. A U.S. military official tells NPR that the U.S. offered a military plane and the husband, Joshua Boyle, declined to get on board. Now, we don't know explicitly why he's doing that. But he was previously married to another woman, and this other woman had a family with many, many contacts with Afghan extremists. She was very outspoken in her own right. Two of her brothers spent time in Guantanamo Bay. One of them is a very famous case, Omar Khadr, who pled guilty to killing an American soldier. He spent a decade at Gitmo. So it appears Boyle has some concerns about traveling with U.S. military, thinking they might want to detain him. But there's no evidence that that is indeed the case.
SIEGEL: Now, President Trump was talking about this case. Let's hear what he said earlier today.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to thank the Pakistani government. We want to thank Pakistan. They worked very hard on this, and I believe they're starting to respect the United States again.
SIEGEL: So, Greg, how significant is this release in terms of U.S. relations with Pakistan and improving them?
MYRE: Well, we certainly haven't heard a U.S. president speak so favorably of Pakistan in quite a time.
SIEGEL: It's been a while, yeah.
MYRE: It has indeed. This is one problem. And they worked together here. So it certainly is a positive development. But I think we need to see it in the broader context of the many problems they have, Trump laying out this Afghan strategy that he wants to develop - still many, many challenges to go. One last quick note on the kidnapping front - the Haqqani network holds two Americans and the Afghans hold a Haqqani leader.
SIEGEL: NPR's Greg Myre, thanks.
MYRE: Thank you, Robert.
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