WASHINGTON — An attempted rescue of two civilian hostages in Afghanistan last month failed, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Thursday, although U.S. forces killed multiple insurgents.
"In August, at the recommendation of Secretary [Ash] Carter, President Obama authorized U.S. forces to conduct a mission in Afghanistan, aimed at recovering two civilian hostages," Cook said. "Unfortunately, the hostages were not at the location we suspected. During the mission, U.S. forces engaged and killed a number of hostile forces. No U.S. personnel or civilians were harmed. We will not provide further information on this mission in order to protect the safety of hostages and operational security."
Such rescue attempts, Cook said, "are inherently sensitive and dangerous and careful deliberation went into this mission. The United States military remains fully prepared to take extraordinary steps to protect American citizens anywhere in the world."
The mission, first reported Thursday by Fox News, was meant to rescue two professors at the American University of Afghanistan — American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks — who kidnapped at gunpoint on Aug. 7 from their vehicle in Kabul.
The New York Times reported that unnamed military officials said the rescuers, Navy SEALs backed by Army Rangers, missed the two hostages by a few hours.
Statistics on such missions are difficult to learn and usually classified. A December 2012 rescue by Navy SEALs led to the successful recapture of an American doctor Dilip Joseph, who was held by the Taliban.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers received the Medal of Honor in February for his actions during that mission. Byers' name and the details of the mission remained classified for years until he received the award.
In May, USA TODAY reported that citations for two Navy Crosses and more than 100 Silver Star medals were awarded secretly to Navy SEALs and a Marine for “extraordinary heroism” in the last 15 years.