This May Not End Well…The Dangerous Folly of Negotiating with Jihadists

In recent weeks two examples of negotiating with Jihadists have appeared in the news and it’s important that Westerners in general—and Americans in particular—understand the dangerous folly of negotiating with such terrorist enemies.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Catholic church on Jolo Island in the southern Philippines on 27 January.  Twenty people were killed and more than a hundred wounded in that attack, which came just a week after voters in the southern Philippines voted on a negotiated referendum to grant autonomy in the Muslim-majority region.

The autonomy plan was designed to end a decades-old Jihadist insurgency in the southern Philippines in which thousands have been killed.

While the referendum passed, voters in Sulu province, where Jolo Island is located, rejected the plan. Sulu includes several Jihadi factions who were opposed to the deal and non-Muslims in the area were also understandably reluctant to live under sharia in a Muslim-ruled autonomous region.

In other words, the deal to appease Jihadists by granting autonomy within the Philippines was a bad deal all around, a fool’s errand. The Jihadists themselves aren’t truly interested in “autonomy” as much as they are in supremacy. And non-Muslims, such as the Catholics in the church on Jolo Island, see no future in living under sharia.

This was an example of a negotiated deal to end a decades-old Jihadist insurgency going wrong before it even got started. It went wrong in such a big way that scores of innocent civilians were killed and wounded in a Catholic church as they attended Mass.

Meanwhile, 3,500 miles away, another likely futile negotiation is underway in Afghanistan.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have reportedly reached a deal for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in return for a cease-fire and promise from the Taliban not to allow Jihadist terrorists to use Afghanistan as a base of operations.

The most obvious and troubling problem with this reported agreement is the fact that it quite clearly violates the long-standing U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists. The only way around this is to use twisted logic to maintain that the Taliban aren’t actually terrorists.

Few remember that when the Taliban originally seized power back in the mid-1990s they extended an invitation to foreign Jihadists to come to Afghanistan to use their country as a launching pad for global jihad. America’s only true national interest in Afghanistan is preventing that from occurring again. When it happened before the eventual result was 9/11.

Trusting the Taliban to abide by a paper agreement would seem to be an incredibly naïve way of preventing Afghanistan from becoming a launching pad for global jihad again.

To truly understand the treacherous nature of negotiating with Jihadists, one needs to look to history and to sharia doctrine.


In sharia doctrine, the term “hudna” refers to a temporary truce in the course of a protracted war, a cessation of hostilities in a jihad campaign. The concept and term came about from the time of Mohammed and is considered part of the sunna of Mohammed (following the perfect example set by the actions of the prophet of Islam).

The concept came about in 628 during the earliest days of Islam in a conflict between the followers of Mohammed and the Quraysh tribe after the Quraysh prevented Mohammed and his followers from entering Mecca.

Mohammed entered into a 10-year truce with the Quraysh known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Mohammed used the truce period to regroup his forces and re-arm.

The truce did not last the ten years of its intended term and, after just two years, in fact led to Mohammed conquering Mecca, which was under the control of the Quraysh.

Though there is disagreement among sharia scholars as to the details, the treaty fell apart after Mohammed had a revelation from Allah, essentially allowing him to break the treaty and enter Mecca with an armed column.  Since Allah supposedly gave Mohammed permission to break the treaty, sharia scholars today do not view this as a breach.

The Quraysh, if they were still around, would probably beg to differ.

The important lesson here for today is that Salafi Jihadists such as the Islamic State and the Taliban closely follow the sunna of Mohammed, as they believe in returning the world to its very form at the time of Mohammed.

Thus all one has to do to determine the wisdom of entering into any agreement with Salafists is to learn from their own doctrine and history. Beware of hudnas.

About Christopher Holton

Christopher Holton is Vice President for Outreach at the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Holton came to the Center after serving as president and marketing director of Blanchard & Co. and editor-in-chief of the Blanchard Economic Research Unit from 1990 to 2003. As chief of the Blanchard Economic Research Unit in 2000, he conceived and commissioned the Center for Security Policy special report “Clinton’s Legacy: The Dangerous Decade.” Holton is a member of the Board of Advisers of Follow Holton on Twitter @CHoltonCSP

View all posts by Christopher Holton →


EDITORS NOTE: This Center for Security Policy column with images is republished with permission.

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