US Hostage Policy Shift to Embolden Kidnappers, Undermine Negotiations

US Hostage Policy Shift to Embolden Kidnappers, Undermine Negotiations © Photo

04:22 26.06.2015Get short URL

President Barack Obama’s public assurances that the US government will not persecute families who pay ransom to free hostages will incentivize kidnapping and undermine the government’s leverage during hostage negotiations, experts told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, Obama announced an updated hostage policy and reaffirmed that families who pay ransom to recover their loved ones will not face prosecution by the US government.

“I do fear, however, that this shift will be understood by those who seek to take US citizens… as a wider window and incentive for taking hostages for ransom,” Wake Forest University Professor Randy Rogan said.

The threat of prosecution was meant to deter families from potentially rewarding kidnappers, Rogan explained, and was viewed by terrorists as a restriction on the negotiation dynamic.

“Now, with the policy change, I suspect more hostages could be taken and the long-standing policy of non-negotiation eroded.”

University of Wollongong Counterterrorism Professor Adam Dolnik explaiend Obama’s policy change was purely cosmetic, considering families have never been prosecuted for trying to pay ransom.

The Presidents public policy clarification amounted to political posturing, Dolnik claimed, that will bear no positive impact on hostage negotiations.

Any negotiation with hostage takers, he added, should be conducted “in the shadows” and guided by principles not privy to public scrutiny.

“Why would you show your cards to the kidnappers?” Dolnik asked rhetorically. “It is not helpful.”

On the other hand, Dolnik emphasized, the US government should not have a policy that is too rigid because compensating hostage takers is sometimes difficult to avoid, especially kidnappers in lower-income tribal areas that need to recover their costs.

“Have some sort of stated policy of no concessions, but be flexible in the background without telling people. Leave the policy ambiguous.”

Obama’s policy announcement comes amid calls for the United States to review its hostage policy as the Islamic State and other extremist groups increasingly rely on funding from ransom payments.

The White House noted, however, that Washington would not pay ransoms for US citizens held hostage overseas despite the policy review.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday that offering concessions to terrorists allows them to fund their operations and makes US citizens more significant targets.

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