Despite Failures, No Change to US Hostage Policy

Despite Failures, No Change to US Hostage PolicyDespite Failures, No Change to US Hostage Policy

Despite three failed raids to free US hostages held by militants, the United States will continue to conduct such operations, officials indicated on Sunday, as President Barack Obama grapples with a spate of kidnappings and killings of American citizens.

The latest setback came in a remote area of Yemen early on Saturday, when al Qaeda militants shot American photo journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie during a rescue attempt led by US Special Forces, Reuters reported.

A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside the two Western hostages.

US special forces raided the village of Dafaar in Shabwa province, a militant stronghold in southern Yemen, shortly after midnight on Saturday, killing several members of the so-called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), according to Reuters.

At least two more hostages are being held by the group.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the operation and the intelligence that lay behind it, and suggested there would be no wholesale review of US policy.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of going back and having a review of our process. Our process is about as thorough as there can be. Is it imperfect? Yes. Is there risk? Yes,” Hagel said on a visit to Tactical Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan.

An earlier raid in mid-November to free Somers also was unsuccessful - he wasn’t present when US and Yemeni forces arrived - as was a July attempt to rescue American journalist James Foley, held by IS in Syria. Foley was later beheaded.

  No Ransom Policy

Yet however high-risk, the increasingly frequent rescue attempts seem unlikely to stop now, particularly as Obama holds fast to a policy of refusing to pay ransom for captives.

A review of hostage policy that Obama ordered this summer will not include the issue of ransom, the White House has said.

That review was begun “in light of the increasing number of US citizens taken hostage by terrorist groups overseas and the extraordinary nature of recent hostage cases,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said.

“I don’t see a lot of room for change in American policy,” said Riedel, now at the Brookings Institution think tank.

The Foley raid and the first attempt to free Somers failed because they apparently had been moved before US troops arrived, illustrating the limits of intelligence on captives’ whereabouts. Somers and Korkie were shot by their captors when they detected the presence of the approaching Special Forces rescue team, officials said on Saturday.