James O'Brien, a former State Department official, will serve as Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, after being appointed by President Obama this week.
President Obama appointed a former State Department official to lead the team in charge of recovering hostages in tense situations. According to a report from NBC, the White House announced on Friday that James Obrien would begin working with foreign governments to ensure the safe return of American citizens being held hostage.
According to a statement from Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, O’Brien will also be responsible for communicating with the families of hostages back at home.
Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed the president’s decision to appoint O’Brien, touting his high level of experience with diplomacy and ability to solve complex problems under pressure. O’Brien previously served as a presidential envoy to the Balkans during a state of unrest in the late 1990s, and was a senior adviser to Madeline Albright.
The hostage policy review which was finished in June led to the creation the new position, following criticism from the families of Americans who previously had loved ones held hostage in other countries. Family members of hostages reportedly received little information about the situation regarding their relatives, and in one case a woman wasn’t informed that her husband was accidentally killed by a U.S. drone strike for months.
O’Brien’s role will focus on the use of diplomacy to secure American hostages and have them returned safely home. He aims to bring transparency to the program and hopes that his experiences will prepare him to guide his team through whatever situations arise.