Report: Hostage's family nixed rescue operation

The fate of American hostage Kayla Mueller is still unknown, but Foreign Policy is reporting that her family begged the government not to try and negotiate her release rather than mount a risky rescue mission.

Islamic State claimed Mueller was killed in an air strike conducted by the Jordanian air force last week. Many observers doubt that story, and believe that Mueller was killed some time ago.

The Islamic State claimed that Mueller, 26, was killed Friday in an airstrike conducted by Jordan’s government. She was kidnapped in August 2013 and is the last known American hostage being held by the extremist group. There was no immediate conclusive evidence of her death, and the United States said it could not confirm the claims.

But earlier plans to strike at extremists linked to those holding her were refused on the grounds that “these things would be too risky to Kayla,” said the military official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Joint Special Operations Command will again push to step up its attacks against the Islamic State network in Syria if Mueller’s death is confirmed, as they will no longer pose any danger to her, the military official said.

The White House never outright ordered JSOC to “step off the accelerator” in trying to find Mueller and plan for her rescue, the official said. But, he said, JSOC never got enough solid information to send a rescue plan to Obama for his approval. The official declined to say whether the U.S. government ever definitively knew where Mueller was after she was kidnapped, but it’s believed she was moved at least once.

JSOC is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and oversees task forces across the globe that conduct the United States’ most sensitive special ops missions, including hostage rescues.

A National Security Council (NSC) spokesman did not respond to questions on whether the Muellers had asked the White House not to attempt a rescue. A Mueller family representative declined to comment.

It must have been a wrenching decision for the family, but one can certainly understand their reluctance to back a military rescue plan. Two western hostages were killed in Yemen during a failed rescue operation last December. At the time, there was a debate over whether to pay ransom for hostages given how difficult and dangerous a hostage rescue can be.

But given what we know about IS and their "negotiations" for the release of hostages in their custody, any chance to retrieve a prisoner would seem to rest with the military. The terrorists simply can't be trusted. As hard as it is on the family to decide whether to take such an awful risk, the risk in relying on the good faith of Islamic State appears to be greater.