When are talks not negotiations? That question arises from ABC’s report on the latest in the frantic search to find more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist network which has taunted authorities ever since with threats to sell their hostages into sexual slavery. The Nigerian government has opened talks with the group’s senior leadership, but are taking pains to claim that there are no negotiations in progress:
Talks are underway between Nigerian officials and senior leadership of Boko Haram, the chairman of the Nigerian president’s Boko Haram “Dialogue Committee” confirmed exclusively to ABC News.
Kabiru Tanimu Turaki would neither confirm nor deny that the talks are with the specific individuals holding the kidnapped girls, only the group’s senior leaders.
Turaki made a distinction between “talking” and “negotiating,” saying at this point the sides are not negotiating for the return of the imprisoned group members in exchange for the schoolgirls. There are more than 4,000 Boko Haram members in detention, according to the Nigerian Interior Ministry.
Turaki says he is confident that a peaceful, negotiated solution can be found.
This sounds like a distinction without a difference. One would presume that talks which include no actual negotiations would be rather brief — “Release the girls,” followed by “No.” Yesterday I mentioned that most countries have a no-negotiation policy with terrorists to keep from incentivizing attacks on civilians, and this report sounds like Nigeria is trying to eat its cake and have it too, but that will only last until either a solution is found or the girls get rescued. At the point where Nigeria gives concessions for a release, the “negotiation” will be rather obvious.
CNS News noticed an interesting inclusion in the video:
A new Boko Haram propaganda video released Monday, showing some of the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls it abducted last month wearing Islamic garb and chanting the Islamic declaration of faith, also features an al-Qaeda banner.
The banner held up behind the reciting girls by two of their number, is the black-and-white one first used by al-Qaeda in Iraq about seven years ago but since displayed by al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Libya. …
As early as June 2012, then-U.S. Africa Command commander Gen. Carter Ham was voicing concern publicly about indications that Boko Haram, AQIM and al-Shabaab were “seeking to co-ordinate and synchronize their efforts.”
The three groups may be sharing funds, training and explosive materials, Ham told a seminar at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, calling the situation “a real problem for us and for African security in general.”
After resisting lawmakers’ calls to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization for almost two years, the State Department eventually did so last November.
A State Department reward offer for information leading to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau being brought to justice refers to “reported communications, training, and weapons links” between Boko Haram, AQIM, al-Shabaab, and the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Those links, it says, “may strengthen Boko Haram’s capacity to conduct terrorist attacks.”
The State Department now recognizes the connections between Boko Haram and a-Qaeda — years later than they should have, but those connections are on record. Just bookmark that for later use, when people insist that Boko Haram has nothing at all to do with Islamist terrorism.