iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama personally took responsibility Thursday for the death of an American and an Italian hostage killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation in January, but his words appear to be little comfort to the family of the American, who said the U.S. government as a whole has been “inconsistent and disappointing” for years in their time of need.
“I want to thank Congressman John Delaney, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Senator Ben Cardin — as well as specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation — for their relentless efforts to free my husband,” Elaine Weinstein, wife to slain hostage Warren Weinstein, said in a statement shortly after the White House’s grim announcement. “Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years. We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families.”
Elaine Weinstein also blasted the Pakistani government and military, for whom she said her husband’s safe return “should have been a priority for them based on his contributions to their country.”
“[B]ut they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren’s captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority. I hope the nature of our future relationship with Pakistan is reflective of how they prioritize situations such as these,” she wrote.
On Friday the Pakistani government said it can “fully understand this tragic loss,” having lost “thousands of innocent civilians in the war against terrorism.”
The White House recently ordered a full review of how the U.S. deals with hostage situations, in the wake of the deaths of several Americans either in the clutches of al Qaeda or at the hands of the al Qaeda offshoot ISIS. U.S. officials told ABC News significant changes will be recommended in the coming weeks.
Weinstein was killed along with Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto in a CIA drone strike in mid-January in Pakistan’s tribal area, a U.S. official told ABC News Thursday.
“I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages,” Obama said Thursday from the White House briefing room, noting that at the time, the U.S. believed no civilians were present at the site.
“Since 9/11, our counter-terrorism efforts have prevented terrorism attacks and saved innocent lives, both here in America and around the world, and that determination to protect innocent life only makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us,” he added. “It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”
That strike and another just days later also took out two American members of al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn. Neither, officials said, were the intended targets of the strike.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the U.S. government had acknowledged killing four Americans in drone strikes since 2009 — only one of whom, al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was an intended target.
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