Pros: Reducing the role of European and Sahelian governments in kidnapping crises could deny cash to AQIM, avoid messy rescues, and prevent AQIM from achieving symbolic victories. Refusing to play the ransom-or-rescue game could reduce AQIM’s incentives to kidnap Europeans and let governments shift from reaction to action.
Cons: Leaving kidnapping victims to their fates might be politically impossible for Sahelian governments (who face pressure from Europe to act and who want to avoid being perceived as weak or incompetent) and European governments (who face domestic pressures to intervene and who want to avoid bad press resulting from deaths). Additionally, victims’ families might try to pay kidnappers, enriching AQIM or endangering private negotiators.
Kidnappings have already reduced European travel to the Sahel. Government policies such as issuing travel warnings, cutting exchange programs, requiring tourists to register with local authorities, and taking precautions regarding government employees’ movements give AQIM fewer targets. Further moves could include mandatory information sessions for tourists on avoiding kidnappings, convoy arrangements for travel between destinations, or encouraging Europeans to hire security escorts.
Pros: The fewer targets that are available to kidnappers, the fewer kidnappings there will be.
Cons: Travel will already decrease on its own. Even with increased precautions, some travelers will still be at risk, either through misfortune or recklessness. Discouraging tourism could also hurt Sahelian economies.