President Obama announced Wednesday that America would stand by families of hostages captured abroad. The U.S. president said so while announcing a revised national security policy.
According to the new policy, the Obama administration is not going to prosecute families for paying ransom to kidnappers. However, Obama said that the U.S. government would not be indulged in such activities and will continue its policy of refusing to pay ransoms.
“I acknowledged to them in private what I want to say publicly, that it is true that there have been times where our government, regardless of good intentions, has let them down .... I promised them that we can do better,” LA Times quoted Obama as saying. The U.S. president said his government would not abandon families of hostages.
Obama’s announcement comes as a number of families of hostages complained that the U.S. government had not handled hostage situations well. Terrorist groups like Islamic State took a number of U.S. hostages and killed them in the recent past. The families complained that the government had not been helpful.
Obama said that he had spent “very emotional” moments with families of hostages in the morning. Washington Post reported that, according to Obama, many families “felt like an afterthought.” Obama told them America was going to change how it did “business.”
Obama ordered an extensive review of hostage practices last fall. The decision was taken after a number of high-profile kidnappings of U.S. citizens by ISIS forces in the Middle East. ISIS militants kidnapped and killed U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley.
A number of former hostages and their families were interviewed during the review process. The U.S. president acknowledged that several families of hostages had talked about their frustrations over multiple government agencies and departments giving conflicting information.
U.S. authorities are willing to communicate with kidnappers or mediators. They may also help private families communicate with hostage takers during recovery efforts. Obama said that government officials would work together with families and have direct communications with kidnappers, if required.
The U.S. president defended the administration’s efforts during hostage situations. He said that his administration had been able to bring several hostages home safely.