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Trump says the release of hostages shows Pakistan is 'starting to respect' US again

Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Thursday hailed Pakistan's cooperation in making possible the release of an American family held captive in Pakistan by the Taliban, calling it "a positive moment" in the country's relationship with the United States.

Trump praised the Pakistani government for "working hard" to help find and release American citizen Caitlin Coleman and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle, as well as their three children who were born during their five years in captivity since 2012.

"They worked hard on this and I believe they're starting to respect the United States again," Trump said in remarks at a White House event on health care.

The administration counts the family's release as a victory in its broader push to pressure foreign governments to do more to secure the release of citizens jailed abroad. Yet even as some are released, others are detained, and Americans continue to be held in countries including North Korea, Iran and Turkey.

In his intelligence briefings, Trump has regularly zeroed in on the status of citizens in captivity overseas, even as his administration has retreated from criticizing the human rights records of other countries.

White House officials said Trump's overtures on behalf of jailed citizens are often made in private. It is unclear what, if anything, Trump has done for a dozen U.S. citizens held in Turkey by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a failed coup last year. He is believed to see them as bargaining chips to force the United States to extradite Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish exile in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan blames for the coup conspiracy.

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When Trump spoke to reporters before meeting with Erdogan at the United Nations General Assembly last month, Trump didn't mention the jailed Americans. Erdogan, he said, "has become a friend of mine."

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