Showing posts with label Counter Insurgency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Counter Insurgency. Show all posts

16 September 2017

Sixteen Years After 9/11, How Does Terrorism End?

In the run-up to the 9/11 anniversary, I reached out to experts who identified the ways terrorism evolves, fades, or dies—and under what conditions it succeeds.Photograph by Kevin Trageser / Redux

The current spasm of international terrorism, an age-old tactic of warfare, is often traced to a bomb mailed from New York by the anti-Castro group El Poder Cubano, or Cuban Power, that exploded in a Havana post office, on January 9, 1968. Five people were seriously injured. Since then, almost four hundred thousand people have died in terrorist attacks worldwide, on airplanes and trains, in shopping malls, schools, embassies, cinemas, apartment blocks, government offices, and businesses, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The deadliest remains the 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago this week, which killed almost three thousand people—and in turn triggered a war that has become America’s longest.

I’ve covered dozens of these terrorist attacks on four continents over that half century. After the Barcelona attack and the U.S. decision to send more troops to fight the Taliban, I began to wonder how terrorism ends—or how militant groups evolve. In her landmark study of more than four hundred and fifty terrorist groups, Audrey Kurth Cronin found that the average life span of an extremist movement is about eight years. Cuban Power carried out several other bombings, but, in the end, it didn’t last a whole year.

I’ve also witnessed some transitions that I never thought would happen. I interviewed Yasir Arafat several times when the United States considered him a notorious terrorist. He was a paunchy man of diminutive height, a bit over five feet, with a vain streak. He always wore plain fatigues, crisply pressed, and a checkered kaffiyeh headdress to conceal his bald pate. He was linked, directly or indirectly, with airplane hijackings, bombings, hostage-takings, and more. Israel thought that Arafat was defeated after its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. I watched from the Beirut port as the chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization and his fighters sailed off to new headquarters in Tunisia, a continent twenty-five hundred miles, by land, from the frontlines.

13 September 2017

** Militant groups have drones. Now what?


Militant groups have a new way to wage war: drone attacks from above. As recent news reports and online videos suggest, organizations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have used commercially-available uninhabited aerial vehicles—better known as UAVs or drones—to drop explosives onto their adversaries in the battle for territory.

That ISIS would weaponize drones shouldn’t be surprising. Militant groups often use the latest consumer technology to make up for capability gaps and level the fight against regular military forces. ISIS broadcasts propaganda through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and plans attacks using encrypted communication platforms like Telegram. This embrace of innovation extends to the way militant groups use military force. Over the last year or so, they have begun to use modified commercial drones for offensive strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. These new tools of war provide a way to conduct terror attacks against civilians, and can also pose a threat to ground forces. Stopping drone proliferation is not an option because of the ubiquity of the technology. That means government forces will have to learn to counter drones operated by militant groups, just as they are now training to counter drones used by national militaries.

Already a “daunting” threat. The threat posed by militant groups flying drones is as much about where the threat is coming from—the sky—as it is about the munitions being launched. Militaries fighting militant groups have enjoyed air superiority for decades. US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, have rarely, if ever, feared attacks from the air. Civilians and humanitarian groups in Syria worry about air strikes from Assad’s regime, but not from militant groups like ISIS. The adoption of drones by militant groups is therefore generating a novel challenge. Speaking at a conference in May, Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of the US Special Operations Command, called commercial drones the “most daunting problem” his troops had faced over the previous year. At one point, he said, the anti-ISIS campaign “nearly came to a screeching halt, where literally over 24 hours there were 70 drones in the air.”

Sixteen years after 9/11, are we any better at fighting terrorism?

Stephen Tankel
September 11, 2017

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks — 16 years ago on Monday — President George W. Bush declared a war on terrorism that he pledged would not end until every terrorist group of global reach was defeated. Bush drew a line in the sand, telling every nation, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The Bush administration was more flexible than this rhetoric suggested, but it still evinced a strong willingness to act unilaterally.

President Barack Obama sought to make U.S. counterterrorism efforts more sustainable, and thereby enable the United States to focus more on other challenges. To do this he not only pursued a more focused counterterrorism campaign than the Bush administration had, but also put an even greater emphasis on working with partners. This was intended to share the costs of counterterrorism and make gains more sustainable by giving partners ownership of the fight.

Where does the war on terrorism stand under President Trump? Although Trump has gone out of his way to reverse many of Obama’s policies, he has largely embraced the burden-sharing aspect of his predecessor’s “indirect” approach. Yet, instead of pursuing enduring partnerships, Trump has treated engagements with partners as transactional exchanges.

Counterterrorism requires international cooperation

Despite their differences, all three presidents confronted two fundamental facts about counterterrorism. First, even a superpower cannot combat every terrorist threat alone. As the 9/11 Commission observed, “Practically every aspect of U.S. counterterrorism strategy relies on international cooperation.” Second, many partner nations help and hinder U.S. counterterrorism efforts. To understand why, it is critical to recognize that counterterrorism is much broader than commonly recognized.

More Top Intel Officials Call to Keep Surveillance Power


Top intelligence officials called this week for Congress to reauthorize a provision that allows the Intelligence Community to target communications of non-U.S. persons overseas that can also incidentally — and controversially — sweep up information related to U.S. citizens.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which sunsets this December, removed the requirement that a judge find probable cause to believe a target is a terrorist or spy. It permits the government to widely collect what is described as foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. The collection itself takes place within the United States – either on American communication platforms or as foreign communications that are routed through American servers.

It would not be in the “nation’s best interest” to “withdraw the legal authority currently granted to us under Section 702,” National Security Agency (NSA) Director Adm. Michael Rogers said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Intelligence & National Security Summit.

Congress must decide this year whether to renew the program as is or implement changes and determine if there will be a new sunset to the legislation. The program has been criticized for sweeping up the electronic data of Americans and what that means for privacy and constitutional rights. Advocates contend it is one of the most important legal authorities on the books to combat terrorism and is a valuable foreign intelligence collection tool.

10 September 2017

ISIS is Using Low-Tech Means to Inflict Large-Scale Terror

Daniel R. DePetris

Simple firearms, knives, and automobiles can result in a horrific number of casualties.

On Thursday, August 17, Spain became the latest country in the West to live through a crude but deadly terrorist attack perpetrated by a group of jihadist-inspired individuals.

The modus operandi of using a large van to strike Las Ramblas, a central tourist spot packed with people in the heart of Barcelona, is nearly identical to acts of terrorism that have occurred in France, Germany, the United States, the UK, and Sweden over the past year-and-a-half. In each case, a radicalized or psychologically distressed individual hijacks or rents a vehicle, waits for an opportune moment for a vulnerable soft target, and turns that vehicle into a deadly weapon by deliberately running people over on the sidewalk. For a terrorist, killing people with a car in an isolated attack is a lot less dramatic than a series of coordinated and synchronized suicide bombings on mass transit systems planned over a period of months. But ramming attacks have the benefit of being very easy to carry out; indeed, running pedestrians over with a car does not require any particular knowledge, skill or intelligence.

Terrorism in our current age is no longer defined by the terrorist cell meeting halfway around the world in a safe-haven, plotting a spectacular attack months and years in advance. Instead, the Islamic State has made terrorism easy for anybody to conduct. As ISIS’s former chief operational planner and spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, implored to ISIS’s pack of recruits in Western Europe in 2014 and again in 2016, you don’t need to travel to Syria and gain battlefield skills to become a valuable member of the Islamic State’s community. All you need to do is pick up a knife and slash a police officer or hijack a car and run over pedestrians on the sidewalk. No expertise on Islam is required, just a willingness to kill innocent people in the name of the caliphate.

Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism

Interest and space for including religious actors in policy on countering violent extremism (CVE) has grown over the past few years, but debates over the degree to which ideological, religious, or structural factors contribute to violent extremism have not yielded clear guidance for policymakers and practitioners.

The role of religion as a potential driver of violent extremism is significant, but religion usually interacts with a wide range of other factors and causality is not linear.

An alternative approach that focuses on the role or function of religion in violent extremism—facilitating mobilization, providing a counternarrative, providing a justification, and sanctifying violent acts—shows promise.

Religious leaders are integral members of civil society and key contributors to public and political discourse. Engaging them in all spheres of government work, carefully and with sensitivity to power asymmetries and potential risks, is needed.

Understanding how religious factors affect violent extremism can help inform the design and implementation of CVE solutions that engage the religious sector.

9 September 2017

The Ugly Rhymes of History? #Reviewing Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies

Thomas McDermott

Insurgency is an old concept. If you were to travel back to Iraq between 2334 and 2279 BC, you would find a man called Sargan. Sargan ruled a vast empire spanning from Southern Iraq to Southern Turkey, enforced by overwhelming military power. His Akkadian hordes, armed with high-tech composite bows and sophisticated logistics, laid waste to all before them. Their strategy was a simple one; ‘mass slaughter, enslavement, the deportation of defeated enemies, and the total destruction of their cities.’ For years their technological edge and brutal strategy allowed the Akkadians to dominate. When they inevitably fell, however, they did not fall to a superior empire. They were victim to a new phenomenon: a tireless, guerrilla-style attack from the unsophisticated barbarian hordes all around them. In 2190 BC the city of Akkad, near modern Baghdad, finally fell.

Max Boot believes that the defeat of the Akkadians was the ‘birth of insurgency’.[1] If he is right, it was the start of an inauspicious history for a style of conflict that continues to thrive today. The places are even the same. Four thousand years after the fall of Akkad, not two hours drive away in the town of Fallujah, a combined force of 10,000 US Marines, British Highlanders, and Iraqi soldiers engaged in a brutal fight against a violent group of insurgents. Since then the counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign in Iraq has expanded into a clash that seems to pit the developed world against an extremist ideology. From ancient beginnings, insurgency now has a global face.

8 September 2017

*** Al Qaeda-linked jihadist in Kashmir criticizes Pakistani Army


In an audio message released on Aug. 31, Zakir Musa criticized the Pakistani government and vowed to fight for the implementation of sharia law in Kashmir.

Zakir Musa, the leader of the newly-formed Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, has released an audio message in which he accuses the Pakistani government of betraying the jihad in Kashmir. Musa, a former commander in Hizbul Mujahideen, became a vocal critic of the established jihadist groups fighting in Kashmir earlier this year. He has accused his one-time comrades of being puppets of the Pakistani Army and criticized them for failing to seek the implementation of sharia law. Musa expounds upon these same themes in his latest message, which was released online on Aug. 31.

Musa says his group’s jihad is not merely for land or to serve the interests of supposedly corrupt rulers. Instead, according to a translation prepared by his online supporters, Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’s jihad aims to free the “ummah” (worldwide community of Muslims) from the nonbelievers and “establish the law of Allah.”

“Our war is against the Indian army, the murtadd (apostate) police of Kashmir, the Government of India, their officers and their political structure and every such individual who would collaborate with the Kuffar (nonbelievers) and tried to harm this jihad,” Musa says.

British Counter-insurgency Campaigns Since the End of the Second World War

With centuries of experience garnered from waging wars of colonial conquest, combating revolutionary movements and imperial policing, the British Army has been seen as an expert institution in the area of counter-insurgency operations. The high regard held for the theoretical constructions of British military officers such as Orde Wingate, Robert Thompson and Frank Kitson seemingly bear this out. But defining a counter-insurgency campaign as a ‘success’ or a ‘victory’ poses problems. This is because most of the counter-insurgency operations conducted after the ending of the Second World War occurred against the backdrop of decolonisation. This meant that regardless of whether such operations were deemed to be successful or not, the countries within which the operation was conducted were embarked upon a path of political independence. And even where they were adjudged successful, the legacy of these campaigns, replete with disregard for the rule of law and violations of the human rights of civilian populations, have left a pall of moral darkness…

The Plague of Terrorism: More Than a Metaphor

By Robert Zaretsky

In his 2017 New Year address, Pope Francis urged world leaders to fight against “the plague of terrorism.” The Pope was not the first to make use of this metaphor, of course. Equally serious sources speak in similar terms. While The Economistmagazine has measured with charts the “plague of global terrorism,” The National Interest has identified terrorism as the “plague of the 21st century.”

The use of plague as a metaphor for terrorism is not limited to religious leaders and magazine writers. Just ask readers of The Plague, Albert Camus’s postwar novel about German-occupied France that celebrates its 70thanniversary this year. The story is as simple as it is sobering. In the near past, a plague settles upon Oran, a city in then-French Algeria. Quarantined from the rest of the world, the city must first accept its new normal before it finds an effective form of resistance. As the city’s body count climbs during the torrid summer months, the efforts at stopping it seem derisory.

Even the novel’s narrator, Dr. Rieux, minimizes the impact of the sanitation teams in halting the plague’s advance. Tellingly, Rieux believes that resistance begins with language. In his world, words matter as much as acts. He and his fellow resisters believe that finding the right words to express their thoughts is an ethical duty. The man responsible for organizing the sanitation teams, Jean Tarrou, insists that all of humankind’s troubles “spring from our failure to use plain, clear-cut language.” Similarly, Rieux tells his readers that “so as not to play false to the facts, and not to play false with himself,” he will strive for objectivity. He is someone who “recognizes what has to be recognized.”

6 September 2017

At the Leading Edge of Counterinsurgency


Even before French soldiers left Vietnam in 1956 as France’s colonial rule came to an end, U.S. Army advisers were already working in the country. Small numbers of American advisers had been there since 1950. Then in 1962 the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was activated and put in charge of all U.S. troops in South Vietnam. Soon thousands of MACV Army advisers were assisting the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. They were in every major ARVN unit, down to the battalion level.

U.S. advisers from the Navy, Air Force and Marines were also posted to relevant South Vietnamese units, but Army troops assigned to ARVN units were the most heavily involved in advisory activities. Beginning in late 1967, other Army advisers were formed into five-man teams with a special mission. Rather than being sent to units of the ARVN—the conventional, national military force responsible for the overall defense of the country—these Mobile Advisory Teams, or MATs, were dispatched to “territorial forces,” essentially local militias fighting in villages and hamlets against the Viet Cong guerrillas engaged in an insurgency to overthrow the South Vietnamese government. More than 300 MATs operated in South Vietnam and were the American agents of counterinsurgency in the Vietnamese countryside.

5 September 2017

The Barcelona Terrorist Attack

On 17 August, the worst terrorist attack in Spain since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people, occurred in Barcelona on Las Ramblas, the famously upbeat Catalan city’s central pedestrian promenade. The attack itself killed 14 people and injured at least 100 others; the attacker stabbed another man to death while hijacking his car and escaping in it; and another person was killed in a linked incident in Cambrils a day later. As in the attack in Nice in July 2016 and subsequent ones elsewhere in Europe, men drove large vehicles into crowded areas frequented by foreigners. People from more than 24 countries were killed or hurt. Of the 16 fatalities, six were Spanish, three Italian, two Portuguese, one Belgian, one Australian-British, one German, one American and one Canadian; two were children. The targeting thus appeared to reflect the terrorists’ ruthless indiscriminateness, as well as their desire to degrade Spain’s appeal as a tourist destination and thereby damage its economy.

Shortly after the attack, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, took credit for it, proclaiming that its ‘soldiers’ had again responded to its exhortations. This characterisation suggested that ISIS central command in the Middle East had merely inspired or endorsed the Barcelona attack, and had not planned or directed it. The Spanish people and government have been especially earnest and effective in rejecting Islamophobia, both in general and in the wake of the Barcelona attack; the alienation of Muslim communities does not appear to be as severe in Spain as in some other European countries. Nevertheless, the attack highlights Spain’s standing vulnerability to jihadist terrorism and illuminates other troubling factors.

27 August 2017

Assessing the “Extent” of State Sponsored Terrorism: Impotent International Law?

By Anant Mishra

Nations in the history of international relations have been engaged in conflicts, using “conventional” tactics, or through “non-traditional” means. Although, the global community is prepared to counter such “acts” of war with strong and appropriate legal means in an effort to resolve the disputes between countries, the actors of terrorism continue to pose a grave threat to the states involved in disputes, fearing a much “uglier” twist. Nations have been evading the “dire repercussions” of a war using “varied tactics”. Most common and frequently used device is the nation’s apprehension in using its national armed forces but continue to retain aggressive tactics without directly involving the state in the conflict–a proxy war.

This gives the state, an opportunity to openly deny its involvement in the conflict, preventing in angering members in the international community and rescuing itself from harsh measures such as embargo or international sanction. Hence it is imperative for policy makers, legal experts of international community, to deliberate on the acts of the state, covert or not, qualify for an aggression of war against a sovereign country, inviting international sanctions. Through this article, policy makers and academicians, must examine the international legal norms suitability to identify the state as an instigator of “state-backed” violence towards a sovereign country under the United Nations General Assembly adopted 1974definition of Aggression.

24 August 2017

Al-Qaeda’s Quiet Resurgence in India

By: Animesh Roul
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the official South Asian branch of the transnational al-Qaeda network, has spread its tentacles in the region beyond its strongholds. Beyond Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, its influence has reached neighboring India and Myanmar. The emergence of the so-called Base Movement AQIS has not only found support and garnered much ground over the past few years with the existing militant formations and disgruntled militants in India, but it has also taken advantage of existing community conflicts, mostly in southern India, and troubled Kashmir in the north.

AQIS and India

Al-Qaeda’s South Asian branch is headquartered in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it has been attempting to infiltrate India since September 2014, when Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of this dedicated South Asia branch (in Arabic, Jamaat Qaidat al-jihad fishibhi al-Qarrat al-Hindiya). However, with a relatively strong presence in neighboring Bangladesh and Pakistan, AQIS has struggled to make headway in India, despite the efforts of its chief, Sheikh Asim Umar — his legal name is Sana ul Haq— an Indian national from Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, who is now based in Pakistan.

The Wary Eye Of The FBI Watches For Homegrown Terrorism


Shortly after midnight on Aug. 12, Jerry Varnell slid behind the wheel of a stolen van and headed for his chosen target, the BancFirst building in Oklahoma City. As he drove toward the bank, he nervously watched for police along his route, fearing that the 1,000-pound bomb in the back of the van would be discovered and his attack thwarted. However, Varnell's drive went without incident and he was able to park the van at a loading dock next to the bank and leave the area on foot without detection.

He checked the device, armed it and then quickly walked to the parked car where an associate was waiting. After they had driven a safe distance away, Varnell used his partner's burner cellphone to dial the number that would activate the bomb and leave the bank building a smoldering pile of rubble. But to his disappointment, the device did not detonate after the first call, so Varnell dialed the number a second and then a third time - after which he was arrested. To Varnell's surprise, he learned that his associate was a member of the FBI and the huge bomb he had assembled in the back of the "stolen" van was an elaborate fake that was part of a sting operation.

Such sting operations are not unusual; the FBI has conducted dozens of them since 9/11. In this case, however, Varnell was not a grassroots jihadist radicalized by al Qaeda or Islamic State, or even an anarchist; he was a member of the anti-government militia movement, which has a long and deadly history of violence.
Echoing Other Stings

23 August 2017

Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists

By Peter Byrne

It takes more than religious fanaticism or hatred to make someone take innocent lives, but recognise the true roots of ISIS-inspired terror and they can be addressed 

VERA MIRONOVA rides Humvee shotgun through Mosul’s shattered cityscape. It is late January 2017. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi has just declared east Mosul liberated from three years of rule by Islamic State, or ISIS. Most jihadist fighters are dead or captured, or have crossed the Tigris to the west, digging in for a final stand. Left behind, biding their time, are snipers and suicide bombers.

Much of the population has fled to refugee camps on the outskirts. Those who stayed look lost and dazed. Men pull corpses out of houses destroyed by air strikes. Others cobble together street-corner markets, selling meat and vegetables imported from Erbil, 80 kilometres and another world away.

Few women are visible. Mironova stands out, dressed in combat trousers and a Harvard sweatshirt, wisps of blonde hair escaping her blue stocking hat. Despite travelling in an armoured car, she’s clearly not a combatant. She’s a social scientist, and her job is not to fight, but to listen, learn and record.

20 August 2017

The Ongoing Challenge of Irregular Warfare: Thoughts on Responses and Intelligence

by Noah B. Cooper

The range of irregular warfare challenges faced by the United States in the future will be extensive (e.g. non-state actors – terrorists, violent extremist organizations, drug traffickers – and state actors that adopt asymmetric tactics to negate U.S. military power – Iran, North Korea, and Russia). Currently, defeating the “hybridized” threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and eliminating its geographical span of control in Iraq and Syria is the priority of U.S. counterterrorism actions. As the U.S., the coalition of forces, and local allies, regain territory lost to ISIS and drive the group out from its urban redoubts, the sinking morale of foreign fighters is encouraging them to repatriate their home countries. Considerable portions of these fighters originate from nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region, namely the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. As they return, the sharing of their experiences, their promotion of the ISIS ideology, and their proliferation of irregular warfare tactics presents a serious concern to the security and stability of the region.

The Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a second front in the battle against not only ISIS, but also other transnational violent extremist organizations (VEOs), local separatist groups, insurgencies, and criminal organizations. Not surprisingly, the study of this area is lacking, but several facts are worth emphasizing to illustrate the importance of the Asia-Pacific region to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. First, the region has the world’s largest population of Muslims (approaching one billion) and, as noted by Admiral Harry Harris (Commander, U.S. Pacific Command), “If a very small percentage of the Muslims in the USPACOM AOR [Area of Responsibility] are radicalized, there could be deadly results.” Second, a negative consequence of the successful counter-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria is the return of foreign fighters originally from the Asia-Pacific to their home countries and the corresponding security implications for the region. The dangers of returning jihadists are manifold and include such activities as the proliferation of advanced terrorist practices, the spread of the volatile ISIS ideology, and of central concern, the coordination and launching of attacks in their home countries. Moreover, the growing association of VEOs in the Asia-Pacific with ISIS presents a threatening dimension for counterterrorism. These disparate groups are working together, often with deadly results.

19 August 2017

Leapfrogging: Terrorists and State Actors

by Mohammad Naved Ferdaus Iqbal

The paper attempts to establish that there is an inadvertent exchange of intelligence and counterintelligence (CI) capabilities between terrorist groups and national intelligence as both seek to learn from each other’s successes and failures and adapt accordingly. While national security and intelligence pose as an existential threat for terrorist groups, these violent non-state actors (VNAs) tend to employ high regards for intelligence and CI and, actively pursue a faster pace of learning and adapting to their volatile operating environment. The groups’ competitive edge in asymmetric warfare with state actors have also been a catalyst in altering the intelligence and CI environment, particularly the modus operandi (MO) of national intelligence. The alterations, however, are reciprocal, suggesting leapfrogging between VNAs and state actors. When terrorist groups develop themselves as learning organizations, the ramifications of changes that become evident in their operating environment get quickly incorporated into their MO as well. This expanding intelligence and CI capabilities of terrorist groups, therefore, surface as a considerable threat as opposed to hostile states actors. In order to establish that there is an inadvertent exchange of intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities between terrorist groups and national intelligence, the paper is, organized to lay out how VNAs learn to adapt from past activities; gauge where intelligence and CI activities of VNAs are similar and contrary to those of national intelligence; probe how intelligence and CI activities of VNAs and national intelligence have caused alterations in each other’s intelligence and CI capabilities; and finally, evaluate the magnitude of threat posed by VNAs as opposed to hostile states actors with a national intelligence apparatus.

Subs, Swarms, and Stricken Infrastructure: The Vulnerability of the United States to Non-Traditional Terrorist Threats

by Robert Bunker

A thesis submitted to Johns Hopkins University in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Global Security Studies, Baltimore, Maryland, May 2017 

The lack of mass casualty domestic attacks in the United States, carried out by

foreign fighters, since 9/11 should not be taken for a sign of future invulnerability. Major Islamic terrorist organizations have previously conducted attacks focused on splashy news headlines and high body counts. However, Al-Qaeda‟s original stated goal was to bankrupt the West, not kill everyone in it. Is the United States simply impervious to such an attack aimed at causing extensive financial or economic damage? Or is the United States vulnerable, and ultimately a sitting duck? This paper will argue the latter.

By examining the relationships between Islamic terrorist organizations and drug- trafficking organizations in Central and South America, and investing the use of advanced narco-submarines by the latter, the goal is to explore a viable means for inserting a group of armed, trained men undetected into the United States. Case studies examine the effectiveness of swarm-style terrorist attacks when compared to WMD and lone-wolf terror attacks. Further case studies seek to highlight extensive vulnerabilities within the U.S. energy and economic infrastructure that, if taken offline via terrorist attack, would result in long-lasting and immensely expensive consequences if attacked. 

18 August 2017

*** The Patterns in Global Terrorism: 1970-2016

By Anthony Cordesman

Terrorism has become one of the dominating national security threats of the 21st century. It is also one of the most complex — mixing the actions of states, extremists, and other non-state actors in a wide range of threats and types of conflicts. Terrorists range from individuals carrying out scattered terrorist acts, to international terrorist networks of non-state actors, to state terrorism including the use of conventional forces and poison gas to terrorize portions of a civil population. Terrorism has also become a key aspect of civil war, insurgency/counterinsurgency, and asymmetric warfare, as well as ideological, ethnic, and religious warfare.

There is no easy way to categorize the resulting patterns of violence, to measure their rise, or to set national security priorities. For more than a decade, the U.S. has focused on the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it has dealt increasingly with the expansion of the threat into North Africa, other parts of the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world. Key warfighting threats like the Islamic State and its affiliates, and the Taliban and Haqqani Network, are only a comparatively small part of the rising threat in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.