On June 24, 2015, President Obama approved Presidential Policy Directive 30, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts, and signed an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad. These steps directed key organizational changes to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is responsive to the needs of their families. Among the changes the President announced was the need to enhance our focus on diplomatic efforts to ensure the safe return of American hostages to their families.
In signing the Executive Order, the President outlined our whole of government approach to hostage recovery and announced that a new Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs would engage at the highest levels of foreign governments to secure the safe return of U.S. hostages. Today, the President has appointed Jim O’Brien to serve as the first Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. In this role, Mr. O’Brien will report to the Secretary of State and will work closely with the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell also established under the Executive Order and the rest of the U.S. Government to synchronize diplomatic efforts in support of comprehensive strategies to bring home American hostages. He will also work directly with the families of hostages as part of the U.S. Government team dedicated to securing the safe return of their loved ones.
Mr. O’Brien is uniquely qualified to serve in this position given his extensive background in diplomacy and international negotiations. He brings years of diplomatic experience having served as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Balkans, Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Principal Deputy Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State. As Secretary of State John Kerry has said, “Jim is exactly the right person for a job that demands a high level of diplomatic experience and the ability to analyze and find effective remedies to complex problems.”
The appointment of Jim O’Brien is an important milestone in the President’s enhancements of the United States’ response to hostage events and to implement the findings and recommendations of the review ordered by the President.
Lisa Monaco is the President's Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.