American contractor, Peace Corps veteran, and international aid expert Warren Weinstein moved to Pakistan nine years ago, “a time when most Americans would not come,” he explains to a camera presumably operated by the Al Qaeda operatives who abducted him in August 2011. He wanted to serve his country—as a regional director for J.E. Austin Associates—but at a moment when he needs his government to make good on the social contract, he feels “totally abandoned and forgotten.”
The statements come to us from a deeply affecting 13-minute video uploaded by the Washington Post—and since pared down to its most salient points in a YouTube clip from the Associated Press—that found its way to reporters in Pakistan. The package arrived (along with a letter dated Oct. 3, 2013) bearing the label “As-Sahab,” the name of Al Qaeda’s media department, though “its authenticity could not be independently verified.”
Possibly reading a script prepared and forced upon him, the 72-year-old Weinstein mentions that he has been held captive for more than two years. He urges “Mr. Obama” to take all necessary steps to begin negotiations for his release, a move he says will present fewer difficulties now that the president has been re-elected and has more leeway to make unpopular decisions. Two previous “proof of life” videos had Weinstein reaching out to the Israeli prime minister and the Jewish community for similar intervention.
What Weinstein’s captors want, in a nutshell, is an end to drone airstrikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, in addition to the release of various Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects currently detained around the world. The Obama administration has demanded Weinstein’s unconditional freedom, refusing to negotiate with terrorist elements. In May 2012, a different video showed Weinstein saying “If you don't accept the demands, I die.”
As NPR noted at that time, Weinstein was kidnapped in the town of Lahore by masked gunmen just 48 hours before he was due to leave the country.