A report released by political think tank New America made shocking conclusions about the status of American hostages.
The report found that Americans who are taken hostage by terrorist, militant, or pirate groups are more than twice as likely to die in captivity or be murdered by their captors than other Western hostages.
Of the 90 Western hostages murdered by their captors between 2001 and 2016, 45% were American.
New America reported that 15 Americans were taken hostage by ISIS and other, individual entities that merged to form the terrorist group. The fates of those 15 Americans looked like this:
- Murdered: 13
- Died in captivity: 1
- Released: 1
Their research showed that countries that pay a ransom see overwhelmingly positive outcomes for their hostages, compared to those who do not pay a ransom.
After an extensive review, in 2015, the Obama administration highlighted its firm stance in its updated hostage policy. President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States' priority is the safe and rapid recovery of Americans being held.
Then, he outlined his three-part policy:
- The United States government will not make concessions, such as paying ransom.
- Better efforts will be made to ensure that all government agencies are organized and work cooperatively to make sure hostage policies are consistent.
- The U.S. will treat families of hostages as trusted and active partners in securing the release of their family member(s).
President Obama said that he believes if the United States pays ransom to terrorists, more Americans will be endangered.
However, the findings of New America refuted this theory. The report claims:
There is no clear link between a nation’s ransom policy and the number of its citizens taken hostage. The United States had the most hostages taken since 2001 with 225, followed by Italy with 148, France with 143, and the United Kingdom with 137.
Now, with an imminent change in the presidency, people have wondered if President-elect Donald Trump will uphold previous administrations' hostage policies...or create a brand new one.
CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen and researcher Christopher Mellon, writing on CNN.com, urged the Trump administration to clarify its stance on prosecution of families who negotiate with terrorists and facilitate prisoner exchanges.
While only time will tell what Trump plans to do with regard to American hostages, some of his previous statements and actions may serve as indicators of his future behavior.
Trump campaigned on the basis that he would re-negotiate the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, which he repeatedly called “disastrous.” His use of the term “renegotiate” and not simply “overturn” signals that he understands the importance of negotiation and might approach many issues from that position.
His pre-Inauguration deal with Carrier also demonstrated that, as a businessman, Trump may be willing to attempt to reach a compromise in order to get the outcome he wants.
Upon his Inauguration, “what he wants” may be the safe return of an American woman (Caitlin Coleman), her Canadian husband, and their two children who've been held hostage since they were captured while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012.
In a recently released video, Ms. Coleman appealed to the incoming president to negotiate their release. She said:
“They 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.”
CNN reported that the prisoner they are referring to is the brother of the head of a terrorist organization who is currently facing execution in an Afghan prison.
As of now, President-elect Donald Trump has neither publicly responded to the video nor has he released a detailed plan for his policy on hostages.