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America’s Poor Record Of Saving Hostages


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By way of illustration, it has emerged that a German who was kidnapped in 2012 at the same time as Mr Lo Porto was rescued by German special forces two years later.

Britain’s SAS dramatically freed a British medical worker and three others in 2012 in a daring raid in Afghanistan.

In April, French elite troops rescued a Dutch hostage after literally stumbling across him during a dawn raid against al Qaeda-linked fighters in Mali.

Last November, they tried to rescue an American and British hostage being held by al Qaeda in Yemen only to find the pair had been moved by the time special forces units arrived.

In January, two US rescue missions had to be called off on the outskirts of the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. Two helicopter gunships carrying crack US troops reportedly had to pull out after coming under heavy fire.

Among the captives they had hoped to save was the Jordanian Air Force pilot later burned alive by his Islamic State captors.

American commandos infiltrated into Syria last August in a bid to free journalist James Foley who would go on to become the first US hostage to be brutally beheaded by IS.

US officials said a large multi-service force of elite troops secretly flew into the war-torn country unnoticed only to discover Mr Foley and other hostages had recently been moved to another location.

It is claimed the US government had known the whereabouts of the hostages for a number of weeks but did not act until it was too late because of the concerns of White House officials.

In the mind of any commander-in-chief weighing these kinds of risky operations is the disastrous precedent of Operation Eagle Claw.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter authorised an effort to end the US hostage crisis in Iran. It was aborted when dust storms jeopardised the mission and a US helicopter crashed into a tanker aircraft.

The episode contributed to the downfall of President Carter in the election later that year.

Despite that precedent, Barack Obama has not been reluctant to authorise high-risk rescue operations. But his military has not been as lucky or effective in carrying them out as successfully as European counterparts.

As the US military reviews what went wrong this time round, it will be under renewed pressure to improve its rescue capabilities.

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