Q Magazinespoke with AustralianAdam Dolnik, expert in negotiation techniques, about the prisoner’s dilemma and the „red line” that governments are willing to overcome when initializing the dialogue with terrorist groups.
Is negotiating with terrorists a discrete form of diplomacy?
Discrete, but with a very specific purpose. If done well, it can also lead to other things that can be beneficial in the wider context of the counter-terrorism grand strategy.
When such negotiations should take place?
Negotiation is simply about exercising influence over the other party’s behaviour or decision-making through the process of communication. As soon as contact with the kidnappers is established, communications should begin in an effort influence how the hostage is treated, and what his or her eventual fate will be.
What kind of terrorists are susceptible to negotiations?
Generally speaking, terrorists with tangible goals. In reality this depends less on the „type” of terrorists one is dealing with, and more on the concrete objectives they have with respect to the hostage taking in question. ISIS for instance released 17 hostages for ransom payments, and from that perspective the group was susceptible to negotiation. But later with the British, American, Japanese hostages, as well as Jordanian pilot – ISIS never had any intention of negotiating their release, they were never interested in having their declared propaganda and financial demands met. They simply wanted to murder these hostages as part of their gruesome soap opera.