Vicki Huddleston, a former U.S. ambassador to Mali, says that the French government paid $17 million to ransom French nationals in recent years. She further alleges that these payments funded al Qaeda-linked operations in Africa.
The French are wrong to do this. Not just mildly wrong, but massively wrong. Not only are they funding terrorism, they are increasing the chances that their people will be nabbed.
I say this as someone who feared getting kidnapped in Baghdad. This was at a time when Iraqi criminals supposedly were nabbing people and then selling them to al Qaeda. I was once in a group of reporters summoned to the Green Zone for a briefing from an American security official. He informed us that Baghdad was the most dangerous city in the world, that we were the most lucrative targets in the city, and that he thought we were nuts. Thanks fella!
Bottom line: I felt that my best defense was the U.S. government policy of not paying kidnappers. I still do.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.