Editor's note: This week, Fox News Opinion is pleased to feature exclusive excerpts from the new book by Mitchell Reiss, "Negotiating With Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists." The following excerpt is taken from the chapter in the book titled "Lessons Learned"
As we approach our ninth year of war in Afghanistan, the United States has more troops on the ground than ever before, our finest military commander is leading the fight and using a battle-tested counter-insurgency strategy in the country that has previously helped stabilize Iraq. Yet it appears that the Obama administration's goal is not to defeat the Taliban militarily, but to hope that a "mini-surge" will drive the Taliban to the bargaining table. But should we talk to the Taliban? And if so, does the Taliban want to bargain with us?
Determining when to talk to terrorists is among the most complex and dangerous decisions any government can make. Engagement may be futile if the the terrorist group is unwilling to make compromises; also, terrorists may not negotiate in good faith or keep any promises they make. In these cases, concessions can rightly be termed appeasement.
Also, states risk squandering their greater moral authority if they sit down with men with "blood on their hands." Many domestic constituents will object to negotiating with terrorists and such talks may also undermine the morale and confidence of friends and allies that may be nervous that a deal may be struck without prior consultation or approval.
But it is not always a difficult decision. Broadly speaking, terrorist groups fall into one of three categories: the irreconcilables, the reconcilables and those who lie somewhere in between.
For the irreconcilables, no solution short of agreeing to their entire agenda will satisfy them. This was the judgment of U.S. forces in Anbar with respect to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). It is Israel’s assessment of Hamas. In these cases, governments have no choice but to kill or capture these groups, choke off their funding and diminish their appeal to potential recruits and supporters by an aggressive information campaign. This is not a hard call.
The reconcilables are those groups that have signaled a willingness to talk, that are open to some compromise short of their ultimate goals and victory. Their demands may be reasonable, seeking to right historic injustices in political representation, housing, education, and access to jobs and land. In these cases, governments need to proceed with caution, but an end to the violence is in sight. This is not a hard call, either.
And then there is the third category – those groups whose statements and actions are ambiguous, vague or contradictory. Some of their members may declare a desire for a more political and peaceful approach, but their actions (or the actions of other factions within the group) may demonstrate a preference to continue fighting. One day they may claim they want a negotiated solution. The next, they may detonate a bomb or assassinate a government official.
For democratic governments, this third category is the one most fraught with political risk. The government is operating in a netherworld of secrecy and uncertainty, with a partner of unproven reliability.
Mitchell Reiss, is the author of the just published Open Road E-Riginal ebook, "Negotiating with Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists." For more information, click here.
View an interview with Reiss, click here.
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