Small Wars Journal

Radical Islamic Terrorism

Radical Islamic Terrorism: An Evolving and Enduring Threat

Joseph A. Warrick

"Our Prophet ordered us to Fight you till you worship Allah alone or pay us the Jizyah tribute tax in submission. Our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says: 'Whoever amongst us is killed as a syahid shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever survives shall become your master.” (Sahih Bukhari 4:53:386)

Introduction

For many, 11 September 2001, was their first exposure to terrorism, however, terrorism is not a new threat for our government, the IC and the Special Operations Community.  Terrorism, most definitely, Radical Islamic Terrorism has been a priority for decades.  Terrorism by its very nature is a dynamic enterprise.  Terrorist tactics, ideology and organization will constantly morph and evolve as they continue to adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves.  To be effective, a Counterterrorism (CT) Strategy must first and foremost accurately define threats.  Sun Tzu opines that defining threat is paramount to successful operations.  By properly identifying the actual threat; we can then focus on effectively countering their efforts or conducting operations to find them, fix them and finish them.          

Currently the face of terrorism is rapidly evolving.  No longer does al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization pose the major threat to the globe.  Since 9/11, AQ the organization has been contained, yet the ideology of AQ has given birth to AQ the social movement.  It is AQ the social movement which continues to spread the ideology of AQ.  As the ideology spreads it inspires those who hold the same desires as al’ Qaeda the organization to conduct acts of violence based on the ideological teachings of AQ.  And although AQ may be contained, AQ the social movement has grown dramatically.  We see the rise of al ‘Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al ‘Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and the increase of individuals or small groups (a leaderless Jihad) which adhere to and enact upon the ideology of AQ.     

If any organized terrorist group poses a major threat to the United States it would be Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).  As AQ the organization was facing retribution for its attacks against the United States, LeT was quickly gaining in size and capital to a level which AQ the organization could have only dreamt.  With its support from the Pakistani Army and ISI, LeT has quietly gone about the business of enacting Pakistan’s wishes upon India while building its own vision of a global caliphate.  In fact, LeT leads all other terrorist organizations in its recruitment and use of clean skins.  In his March 2010 testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, Ashley J. Tellis stated, “In my judgment, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) today remains—after al-Qaeda—the most important terrorist group of global reach operating from South Asia. Like al-Qaeda, LeT too has a universalist ideology focused on establishing a universal Islamic Caliphate through the instrument of jihad, but unlike al-Qaeda, which is truly a stateless terrorist organization, LeT remains primarily Pakistani in its composition, uses Pakistani territory as its primary base of operation, and continues to be supported extensively by the Pakistani state, especially the Pakistani Army and its Directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)."(Tellis, 2010)  With its capital, organization, and stated hatred of the U.S., LeT surely presents a future challenge to the U.S.

On the African continent and in the Arabian Peninsula we see the rise of AQIM, AQAP and Al Shabaab.  All of these organizations are affiliates and adherents of AQ.  Each organization conducts operations in their respective Areas of Operation (AO) to not only press their own organizational goals, but to also further the ideology of AQ in the formation of a Global Caliphate and the reclaiming of Muslim lands.  Each organization represents a threat to the U.S. in its own way but all bring with them the over-arching ideology of AQ. 

Across the globe, Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) groups continue to grow in power, influence, and resources.  However, over the past decade, extensive International Assess­ment and Strategy Center (IASC) field research docu­mented the following developments: (1) the changing nature of TOC organizations in Latin America and West Africa; (2) the growing hybrid nature of crimi­nal and terrorist groups; (3) the alliances with regional and extra-regional state and nonstate actors; and, (4) the growing involvement of the self-proclaimed Bo­livarian states of Latin America whose governments sanctioned criminal activities as part of coherent, mul­tistate instruments of statecraft. (Farah, 2012, iii)  First and foremost, this nexus is producing a new type of warfare where globalization allows drugs, people, money and weapons to flow freely across international boundaries.   A type of warfare where a new type of violent conflict will challenge our standing “conventional” and “unconventional” definitions.  In many instances this scenario has resulted in criminal organizations which are better resourced and better trained than the law enforcement apparatus which is in place to counter their efforts (Mexico for example)

Additionally we see the growth in recruiting and utilization of so called “clean skins”; individuals with no ties to terrorist organizations.  In many cases these individuals are citizens of target countries of terrorist.  This allows them free access to target sets within the target country without the high risk infiltration of foreign jihadist.  Combine these individuals with the leaderless jihad concept and you have a problem set for security officials which truly is analogous to “finding a needle in a haystack”.

Underneath this all is the driving ideology of radical Islamist or Jihadist.  The Jihadist movement continues to rally members to its cause and continues to hold as the predominant threat to the U.S.  As Phares explains, the Jihadist are comprised mainly of Salafist and Khumeinist who seek  the destruction of the U.S., thus allowing them to focus on replacing apostate regimes within the Middle East with radical Islamic governments.  This will then bring about the rise of a Global caliphate which would reject international law and opposing Religions.

Research Question

Through research and the collection of evidence, this paper intends to predict the future threat which will be faced from terrorism. Specifically, “What threats will we face from terrorism in the future?  How will terrorist evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves?”  

Thesis Statement

Through qualitative research methods it is the following which this paper proposes to answer:  What threats will we face from terrorism in the future?  How will terrorist evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves?  The thesis statement for this effort is:  As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replace by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.

Literature Review

In  “55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism”, Cetron and Owens  have created a work which is part of an ongoing study of forces changing the world, specifically in the realm of national security and intelligence.  This particular volume, focused on the top 55 trends now shaping the future of terrorism.  In an over-arching look, the document states that Islamic terrorism will continue to grow; that western lands, the United States, Britain and France will be at the most risk for acts of terrorism; that future attacks will combine mass bloodshed and economic impact.  Specifically the article asserts that Islamic terrorism will continue to grow; that Islamic terrorist will gain access to WMD, specifically nuclear weapons; that Islamic terrorist will gain legitimacy, either through a natural maturation process or by taking power of a complete country.  What this effort does not accomplish is the description of detailed tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) of the terrorist threat we will face.  The major contribution of this work is the support it provides to the main aspect of the proposed Thesis Statement of this research:  “As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves,  we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism.” 

Douglas Farah’s article provides detailed information on the emergence of new hybrid transnational criminal and terrorist franchises in Latin America which pose a serious threat to the United States.  Primarily, the alliance between Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) and Islamic terrorist.   These alliances currently span state and non-state actors and will operate under a broad state protection allowing them to undermine democratic governance, sovereignty, growth, trade and stability.(Farah, 2012, vii) These activities will yield billions of dollars in illicit revenues every year in the region, and trillions globally. The Leaders of these organizations share a publicly articulated doctrine to employ asymmetric warfare against the United States and its allies that explicitly endorses the use of WMD as a legitimate tactic.(Farah, 2012, vii)  The main push behind this alliance is Iran (a known state sponsor of Hezbollah) and the Bolivarian alliance.  Illicit forces in Latin America have begun using tactical operations centers as a means of furthering their view of statecraft.  This brings new elements to the “dangerous spaces” where nonstate actors intersect with regions characterized by weak sovereignty and alternative governance systems.(Farah, 2012, viii)   This new dynamic fundamentally dissolves the historical divide between TOC and terrorism and alters the structure underpinning global order.  This work demonstrates how terrorist are already adapting to our CT efforts by pairing with TOC’s for increased infrastructure along with placement and access. The underlying threat here is the foothold which terrorist are now solidifying in countries not only within our hemisphere but along our very borders.

The Strategic Challenge of Somalia's Al-Shabaab” provides an overview of Al Shabaab, its origins, ideology and strategic outlook.  Prior to September 2013, Al Shabaab had been limited to operations within Somalia.  Even though its ideology and strategic outlook clearly outlines a desire for a global caliphate, Al Shabaab had been limited by its struggles with Ethiopian and U.S. forces within Somalia.  Increasing the threat to the U.S. is the large number of Americans who have traveled to Somalia for training.  Individuals linked to Al Shabaab represent a serious domestic threat to the U.S. and include the U.S.’s  first successful suicide bomber.  Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized American citizen, was one of Al Shabaab’s suicide bombers in its October 2008 attacks in northern Somalia.(Gartenstein-Ross, 2009)   Al Shabaab is openly linked with AQ and has been the subject of several videos produced by various AQ leaders.  Within Somalia, Al Shabaab represents a serious threat to stability with its military experience and capability, its ability to hold ground and its ability to quickly establish governments under Shari’a law in areas it holds.  Its large number of American citizens who support Al Shabaab make it a serious and growing threat to the U.S. on the domestic and international scene. Al Shabaab’s ties to AQ, its radical Islamic ideology, its military might and its growing number of American citizens support the proposed thesis of this research effort.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: the evolution from Algerian Islamism to transnational terror” provides a historical perspective on Islamic terrorism in Algeria. It explains how The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) was rebranded and renamed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  This began on September 11th, 2006, when Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a videotaped statement calling for the liberation of the former Muslim lands in North Africa.  Zawahiri announced that GSPC had joined AQ and that the Islamic Maghreb would be a priority for global jihad.(Gray & Stockham, 2008)  Following this announcement the GSPC changed its name to AQIM and fully integrated into AQ proper.  This integration was confirmed by the public statements of AQIM’s leader to AQ,  “Use us to strike wherever you will, and you will never find in us anything but compliance and obedience”(Gray & Stockham, 2008)  AQIM’s  near term goals are to strengthen international ties and carry out attacks in North Africa. (Gray & Stockham, 2008)   With its long term goals being the unification of Islamist movements across North Africa in order to build local conditions that engender terrorism and recruit followers to work toward the establishment of a Caliphate throughout the Muslim world.(Gray & Stockham, 2008)  The hope is that disperse Islamic groups in Northern Africa will rally to AQIM, thus strengthening AQIM and increasing its base of influence and operations. AQIM has quickly demonstrated itself as an effective organization, capable of attacking hard targets on a large scale.  AQIM quickly embarked upon a campaign to radicalize displaced Muslims originally from the Maghreb who now reside in Europe and the U.S. via a robust propaganda campaign via the internet.    The rise of AQIM as an organization which supports the ideology of the original AQ along with its inherent regional goals is completely in line with the proposed thesis for this research effort.

Hoffman’s “Al Qaeda, Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities:  An Assessment” assesses (then) current trends in terrorism and attempts to predict future potentialities of terrorism.  Hoffman explains that we are now (or were then) in a transitional state due to AQ being forced to adapt to our evolving CT efforts.  He predicted that during this time frame we will see a continuation of attacks against low level soft targets.  He predicts that many local movements will be surreptitiously co-opted by AQ and their will be renewed efforts to increase recruitment of Muslims living within Islamic communities inside AQ’s target countries.  Hoffman also states that, “Increasingly, lone individuals with no connection with or formal ties to established or identifiable terrorist organizations are rising up to engage in violence.  These individuals are often inspired or motivated by some larger political movement that they are not actually a part of, but nonetheless draw spiritual and emotional sustenance and support from. Indeed, over the past 10 years or so—with the exception of the two World Trade Center attacks and that on the Pentagon—all of the most significant terrorist incidents that occurred in the United States were perpetrated either by a lone individual or very tight two- or three-man conspiratorial cells.”(Hoffman, 2002)  Hoffman’s statements concerning lone individuals with no connections to a terrorist organization conducting acts of violence due to being inspired by a larger movement seems to support Sageman’s words in regards to AQ the social movement and the rise of leaderless jihad.  Both support the thesis statement for this research effort.

In its first paragraph, “In Focus: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Yemen Uprisings” supports the thesis of this research effort as it states that after the death of bin Laden, AQ became a decentralized global movement in which groups are linked by a shared ideology vice a structured organizational hierarchy.(Ng, 2011)  Although AQAP has established a strong foothold in Yemen, it has not been able to highjack the uprisings within Yemen which are calling for the resignation of Yemen’s President.  The democratic and secular theme of the political uprising within Yemen does not provide much maneuver room for AQAP.  However, AQAP continues to maintain its presence, slowly building support and playing an effective propaganda campaign in order to set itself in a good position if the government falls and unrest seizes the day.  While at the same time, AQAP continues with an effective insurgency against the Yemeni government and its security forces.  On the international front, AQAP continues to plan and attempt operations against the U.S. even after failed attempts in 2009 and 2010.  The author goes on to list AQAP is the prime threat (from what once was AQ) to the U.S.  Ng’s article provides information which supports two elements of the thesis statement of this research effort.  First, that the main threat to the U.S. will continue to come from Islamic terrorist and second, that AQ the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replaced by aspects of the social movement which is AQ.

The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America” paints a bleak and disturbing picture of Hezbollah’s growth within Central and South America and its increasing ties with Transnational Organized Crime (TOC).  For the last several years Hezbollah and Iran have been expanding their operations in Central and South America. Hezbollah’s presence in this region began in the 1980’s but has recently been facilitated by Hugo Chavez and other anti-American governments in South America.  Due to this access, Hezbollah now has a strong presence within the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America.  The TBA is a predominantly lawless area in vicinity of the converging borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.  It is estimated that Hezbollah now has numerous cells which hold approximately 460 operatives.  Hezbollah utilizes the TBA as a safe haven for fundraising, money laundering, recruitment, training, plotting, and other terrorist-related activities.(Noriega & Cardenas, 2011)  Hezbollah is partnering with TOC’s for the infrastructure which organized criminal organizations have at their disposal.  This is especially applicable in regards to the smuggling of arms or personnel. Crossing international borders or entering target countries can be difficult for international terrorist organizations.  Criminal organizations with sophisticated human smuggling architecture can facilitate the infiltration terrorist operatives with far less risk of exposure than attempting to enter the U.S. via traditional methods.   In return the criminal organization obtains the fees for this service which in turn generates profit.  Hezbollah, however, does not seem content to simply operate within the TBA, Hezbollah now seems to have its sights set on Mexico in order to exploit its extremely porous border with the U.S. and to further expand its relations with TOC’s within the region.  Evidence exists to support the fact that Hezbollah is sharing its terrorist experiences and techniques with Mexican drug cartels along the US border.  The result of this partnership is criminal organizations which are better resourced and better trained than the law enforcement apparatus which is in place to counter their efforts and Hezbollah cells which are poised to infiltrate the U.S. in order to conduct operations. But Chavez did more than simply provide Hezbollah access to the Region.  It seems he also was assisting them with criminal activities of their own.  In 2011, a well-known Venezuelan drug lord confirmed that  Hezbollah is operating cocaine labs in Venezuela with the protection of the country’s government.(Noriega & Cardenas, 2011)  In addition, Chávez  brokered meetings on Iran’s behalf with other leaders in the region; Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia.  Both men are members of the Chávez sponsored Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). (Noriega & Cardenas, 2011)  Both have also established alliances networks with TOC’s.  This will allow Hezbollah increased safe havens and increased network infrastructure within the region.  It is clear that Hezbollah now has “official” support from multiple governments within the Region.  And this, as Noriega and Cardenas quote Doug Farah creates a serious issue for the U.S.; “The nature of the threat to the United States then is not merely the drugs in the criminal pipelines and multiple transnational criminal activities that directly affect us every day. It is the establishment of political and financial influence and military presence by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that enjoys the state sponsorship of Iran and, to a lesser degree, Syria, in concert with states that are hospitable to its movements and that are replicating its model, particularly south of the border.” (Noriega & Cardenas, 2011)  This expansion of Hezbollah into Central and South America and its ventures with TOC support the stated thesis of this research effort and demonstrate how terrorist organizations are adapting to increased security at traditional infiltration locations by working with TOC’s in order to smuggle terrorist into the country.

Walid Phares book, “The Confrontation; Winning the War Against Future Jihad”, is his third book in an effort educate the West on the threat of Jihadist.  In his first book, Phares explains the historical evolution of the Jihadi movements and strategies which they utilize against America and the West.  Phares second book explains how the Jihadists delayed the Western counter offensive for decades until 9/11.  In this, his third book, (as the name implies) Phares proposes strategies and policies to win the confrontation against Jihadist movements.   Early on, Phares defines the current conflict as being "waged by the global jihadists; targeted at civil societies and human rights around the world; aimed at world domination; and threatening international peace and security."(Phares, 2008)  Phares argues that if we truly want to win this conflict that “you must define the threat and the enemy” and that we must begin to “identify the actual enemy by referring to its ideology and goals.”(Phares, 2008)  Phares defines the two major pillars of the jihadist movement are the Salafist and Khumeinist who seek “the downfall of twenty one Arab states and more than fifty Muslim governments, hoping to replace them with a caliphate that would reject international law and revive a new conquest of the lands outside of the caliphate (the remainder of the world).” (Phares, 2008)   “The Confrontation” provides more support to the thesis for this research effort as it emphasizes the world will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism.

Marc Sageman’s  “Leaderless Jihad” attempts to explain how people evolve into terrorist  by utilizing a process that relies on statistical techniques rather than anecdotes or speculation .   This work focuses on “global Islamist terrorism” with a detailed discussion and explanation of al’ Qaeda the Social Movement.  Sageman attempts to demonstrate how the ideology and actions of al ‘Qaeda have and continue to inspire like-minded individuals who are not members of any specific organization; but who desire to commit acts of violence based on the ideology of al’ Qaeda.  Sageman also explains, that although, since 9/11, al’ Qaeda the organization has been predominantly contained, al’ Qaeda the Social Movement has grown dramatically.  “Leaderless Jihad” provides an in-depth explanation of the radical Islamic ideology of al’ Qaeda and how it fits into current radical Islamic terrorist beliefs.  This work provides in depth information on the ideology of al’ Qaeda the organization and al’ Qaeda the social movement and how they have both assisted with the current Jihadist movement.  More importantly to Sageman is how they have contributed to the rise of leaderless Jihad and the implications of this to the future of terrorism.  Sageman’s work supports this research effort as it explains the transition from AQ the organization to AQ the movement and the continued increase in actions accomplished by a leaderless jihad.

Scott Stewart’s “Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft” explains that terrorism is constantly evolving and adapting due to countermeasures against terrorism, technology and target sets.  The article asserts that “Terrorism is an enduring reality”.(Scott, 2012) and a tactic which will always be utilized by militant actors who confront militarily superior enemies.  Scott predicts that increased security efforts involving international travel and advances in identification technologies will force terrorist to search for “clean skin” operatives; individuals who are unknown to security services and who have the ability to travel using legitimate documents or who do not need to travel due to being “in place” in the target area due to their citizenship or nationality.  Efforts at impeding or freezing terrorist funding is forcing terrorist to the sale of narcotics and other criminal activity.  This has also lead to a teaming of efforts between terrorist and Transnational Organized Crime (TOC).  In light of these factors, the author predicts that future terrorist attacks will be more locally focused or committed by clean skin terrorist.  The author also opines that a transition to soft targets may mean an increase in targeting of hotels, business and diplomatic missions.  “Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft” provides support to this research efforts thesis statement as it describes the increase of home grown terrorism through individuals referred to as “clean skins” and the increased ties of terrorism with TOC.

The Menace That is Lashkar-e-Taiba” discusses the origins and ideology of LeT and its spectacular coordinated bombing and shooting attacks in Mumbai, India, in November 2008.  Explains that LeT was established in 1987 at a time when Pakistan was in the throes of Islamic ferment.  Tellis asserts that LeT has access to a steady supply of volunteers, funding, and—most important of all—concerted state support.  He details LeT’s long history of support from the ISI, in part due to LeT’s actions in India.  Tellis also explains that even though considered by many to be a terrorist group with only regional aspirations that LeT seeks, above anything else, the establishment of a universal caliphate with special emphasis on the recovery of all lands that were once under Muslim rule.(Tellis, 2012)  But LeT’s desires do not stop there; the leader of LeT, has openly declared that LeT intends to plant the flag of Islam in Washington and Tel Aviv as well as New Delhi.(Tellis, 2012)  According to Tellis, Indian intelligence currently estimates that LeT has operatives in 21 countries worldwide in order to take part in the “perpetual jihad against the infidels”. (Tellis, 2012)  The bottom line of Tellis’s work is this:  LeT is a serious threat to the U.S.   LeT has global reach, “exhibits all the ideological animus, financial and material capabilities, motivation, and ruthlessness required to attack those even further afield that it believes are its enemies because of their adherence to different faiths or their residence in secular, liberal-democratic states.” (Tellis, 2012)    “The Menace That is Lashkar-e-Taiba” supports the thesis of this work as it continues to predict that Islamic based terrorism will continue to be a threat to the west and that LeT may quite possibly be the future standard bearer of that threat.

The “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” is the base document for the U.S. Governments current “unclassified” National Strategy for Counterterrorism.  As such it is the basis of the Nation’s actions to counter terrorist efforts.

In “Terrorism and the Shape of Things to Come” the authors attempt to define the future of terrorism by investigating terrorism as a possible indicator of international political trends in accordance with the methodologies utilized in Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. According to the authors, Huntington sees a future alliance between Chinese and Islamic civilizations. Huntington also thinks that Islamic civilizations is most prone to violent conflict and that Western civilization, for reasons having to do with its global impact and the animosity this generates, is the most likely object of inter-civilizational attacks.(Weinberg & Eubank, 2002) According to evidence depicted in this work the principal perpetrators of inter-civilizational terrorism from 1968 to 1997, have been groups and individuals drawn from Islamic civilizations.   Surprisingly enough, even considering the amount of rhetoric we hear from Islamic terrorist groups concerning Israel, from 1968 to 1979 the average number of attacks on Israel and the United States are extremely close, with United States having an average of 29.2 attacks and Israel having an average of 29.3 attacks over that time frame.  But if you look at the time from of 1980 to 1997 the scales tip dramatically.  During this timeframe the United States average 40.06 attacks and Israel averaged 8.95 attacks.(Weinberg & Eubank, 2002)  These statistics not only beg the question of is Israel truly the main target of Islamic terrorist or is it the U.S.?  Other significant conclusions drawn from the evidence presented in this work is that the principal perpetrators of inter-civilizational terrorism have been groups of individuals draw from Islamic civilization. The final assessment from this work is that acts of inter-civilizational terrorism will continue to be committed by groups of individuals drawn from Islamic civilization and that the U.S. and the West will continue to be their main target.  Weinberg and Eubank support a portion of the thesis statement of this research effort as they profess that the predominant perpetrators of terror in the future will continue to be drawn from Islamic civilizations.  However, they differ from the thesis in their statements concerning future cooperative efforts between Islam and China.

The Euronews article on Al Shabaab’s recent attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya provides a brief history of Al Shabaab and provides an in-depth look into the operation itself.   While the Euronews anchor attempts to paint the attack as a warning to Westerners, Jane’s Security Analyst, Valentina Soria states the success of the attack is due more so to Kenyan and Western Security forces underestimating Al Shabaab in both manpower and technical capabilities.(Euronews, 2013)  The article then goes on to discuss Al Shabaab’s focused efforts to recruit individuals from the Somalia diasporas in the U.S., Britain, and other Western Nations.  Soria credits Al Shabaabs effective propaganda strategy and use of the Internet as the driving force behind the successes in this effort.  The article demonstrates how Al Shabaab is expanding its efforts out of Somalia and into countries within the region and how even when seeming to be beaten in Somalia, Al Shabaab remains a viable threat.  Combine Al Shabaab’s ideology, its successful recruitment program targeting westerners and its desire to reach beyond Somalia to further its ideology and you have a credible threat and a chain of information which supports the stated thesis of this effort.         

Methodology and Research Strategy

This paper presents a predictive analysis of the threat which we will face from terrorism by discussing how terrorist organizations evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves.  The proposed research methodology is to utilize qualitative research through the use of articles, papers, official documents and analysis of other archival, administrative data.  In order to carry out this study, a review of academic literature and media reports was conducted.   A large portion of the data collected from scholarly sources is slightly outdated, being produced prior to 2010.  As such, much of the information collected will be taken from secondary academic literature and media reports due to the difficulty in obtaining primary source material. 

The working hypothesis for this research is, “As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replaced by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.”

Findings and Analysis

The purpose of this research effort is to demonstrate that due to terrorist evolving and adapting to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves, the threat posed by terrorist will also evolve and alter the current threat we face.  Scott Stewart explains that terrorism is constantly evolving and adapting due to countermeasures against terrorism, technology and target sets.  He asserts that “Terrorism is an enduring reality”(Scott, 2012) and a tactic which will always be utilized by militant actors who confront militarily superior enemies.  Through analysis of the evidence collected, this paper was to confirm or deny the following thesis statement:  As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replace by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.

The evidence is fairly clear that Radical Islamic terrorist ideology will continue to be the primary driver of terrorist organizations which will present the most significant threat to the U.S., its citizens and its interest in the future.  In fact, some predict that radical Islamic terrorism will continue to grow and that the United States, Britain and France will be at the most risk for acts of terrorism conducted by these factions.  Walid Phares states that the radical Islamist movement is spearheaded by Salafist and Khumeinist who seek “the downfall of twenty one Arab states and more than fifty Muslim governments, hoping to replace them with a caliphate that would reject international law and revive a new conquest of the lands outside of the caliphate (the remainder of the world).” (Phares, 2008)   Since 9/11, the CT efforts of the U.S. and its allies have left AQ the organization predominantly contained, yet it is the ideology of AQ and AQ the social movement which has continued to flourish; providing like-minded individuals and organizations with a driving focus by which to focus their efforts toward. Aaron NG states that after the death of bin Laden, AQ became a decentralized global movement in which groups are linked by a shared ideology vice a structured organizational hierarchy.(Ng, 2011)   This phenomenon has given rise to or emboldened organizations like AQIM, AQAP, and Al Shabaab, while at the same time emboldening individuals not affiliated with any organizations to undertake a leaderless Jihad. 

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) was rebranded and renamed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) shortly after Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a videotaped statement on  September 11th, 2006 , calling for the liberation of the former Muslim lands in North Africa and announcing that GSPC had joined AQ and that the Islamic Maghreb would be a priority for global jihad.(Gray & Stockham, 2008)  AQIM’s  near term goals are to strengthen international ties and carry out attacks in North Africa. (Gray & Stockham, 2008)   AQIM’s  long term goals seem to shoe horn into AQ’s  long term goals; being the unification of Islamist movements across North Africa in order to build local conditions that engender terrorism and recruit followers to work toward the establishment of a Caliphate throughout the Muslim world.(Gray & Stockham, 2008)   AQIM has demonstrated itself as an effective organization, capable of attacking hard targets on a large scale.  AQIM also quickly embarked upon a campaign to radicalize displaced Muslims originally from the Maghreb who now reside in Europe and the U.S. via a robust propaganda campaign via the internet.  This not only provides AQIM recruits to operate with the Maghreb but also feasibly to conduct acts in the U.S. and Europe in the name of AQIM. 

AQAP has established a strong foothold in Yemen, but is finding difficulty in becoming the prime force behind the uprisings within Yemen which are calling for the resignation of Yemen’s President.  This has not impacted AQAP’s ability to maintain its presence, slowly building support and playing an effective propaganda campaign in order to set itself in a good position if the government falls and unrest seizes the day.  Simultaneously, AQAP has conducted an effective insurgency against the Yemeni government and its security forces.  On the international front, AQAP continues to plan and attempt operations against the U.S. even after failed attempts in 2009 and 2010.  AQAP will continue its efforts within Yemen, proving to be a destabilizing force while at the same time working towards the long term goals of AQ the movement; forcing the U.S. out of the Region and the establishment of a global Caliphate.

Until recently, Al Shabaab had been limited to operations within Somalia.  Its attack on a shopping mall in Kenya however, demonstrates the organizations ability to conduct operations outside of Somalia even as those who are fighting them in Somalia feel they are weakened and contained.  Al Shabaab’s ideology and strategic outlook outlines a desire for a global caliphate, but it seemed to have been limited by its struggles with Ethiopian and U.S. forces within Somalia.  Within Somalia, Al Shabaab continues to represent a serious threat to stability with its military experience and capability, its ability to hold ground and its ability to quickly establish governments under Shari’a law in areas it holds.  What makes Al Shabaab a threat to the U.S. is its large number of Americans who have traveled to Somalia for training.  Al Shabaab has focused efforts to recruit individuals from the Somalia diasporas in the U.S., Britain, and other Western Nations via an effective propaganda strategy and use of the Internet.   Individuals linked to Al Shabaab represent a serious domestic threat to the U.S. and include the U.S.’s  first successful suicide bomber.  Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized American citizen, was one of Al Shabaab’s suicide bombers in its October 2008 attacks in northern Somalia.(Gartenstein-Ross, 2009)   Al Shabaab is openly linked with AQ and has been the subject of several videos produced by various AQ leaders.  Combine Al Shabaab’s ideology, its successful recruitment program targeting westerners and its desire to reach beyond Somalia to further its ideology and you have a credible threat to the U.S.

In addition to the organizations which belong to AQ the Social Movement, other threats face the U.S. in the future.  Hezbollah, LeT and homegrown terrorist/leaderless Jihad lead the list of threats outside of AQ the Social Movement; each presenting its own unique challenge to our national security.  Over the last several years Hezbollah has undergone rapid growth within Central and South America and is increasing ties with Transnational Organized Crime (TOC).  The main push behind this alliance is Iran (a known state sponsor of Hezbollah) and the Bolivarian alliance, particularly Hugo Chavez and other anti-American governments in South America.  Hezbollah has a particularly strong presence within the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America.  The TBA is a predominantly lawless area in vicinity of the converging borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.  It is estimated that Hezbollah now has numerous cells which hold approximately 460 operatives.  Hezbollah utilizes the TBA as a safe haven for fundraising, money laundering, recruitment, training, plotting, and other terrorist-related activities.(Noriega & Cardenas, 2011)  Hezbollah is not limiting its efforts to the TBA, however, but is expanding its presence into Mexico where it is working with Mexican drug cartels in order to establish a foot hold and partnership near the U.S. border.  In addition to Hezbollah, LeT presents another unique challenge to both U.S. and International Security.  LeT not only has the capital, capacity and ideology to strike the U.S. but it has the power to push two regional Nuclear powers to the brink of, if not to, nuclear war.  Since 2011, while other Islamic terrorist groups were being degraded by International CT efforts, LeT has seen an unprecedented growth in capital and capacity.   Further adding to this threat is that LeT currently leads all other terrorist groups with its efforts to recruit clean skin individuals.   Not only is LeT recruiting individuals with clean skins, but it is utilizing them to conduct pre-operational surveillance and target development.  This is evident in the case of David Headley, an American citizen who conducted pre-operational planning for targets attacked in Mumbai in 2008 and with an Australian citizen who was caught while conducting pre-operational surveillance of nuclear facilities within Australia.  Although many  consider LeT to be a terrorist group with only regional aspirations; above anything else LeT seeks the establishment of a universal caliphate with special emphasis on the recovery of all lands that were once under Muslim rule.(Tellis, 2012)  But LeT’s desires do not stop there; the leader of LeT, has openly declared that LeT intends to plant the flag of Islam in Washington and Tel Aviv as well as New Delhi.(Tellis, 2012)  The following threat covers two different areas.  Homegrown/leaderless jihad and those referred to as clean skins.  Clean Skin terrorist can be either homegrown, leaderless or members of a group.  As LeT recruits those with clean skins, or those who have no links to terrorist and are not from countries tied to terrorist, so too are those who have become self-radicalized or who are simply inspired by terrorism fall into these categories.  When not part of a known terrorist group these individuals represent what is referred to as leaderless jihad.  Meaning they have no organizational structure, no affiliation with terrorist but have chosen to embark upon terrorism on their own.  Sometimes individually or as part of a small group.  Bruce Hoffman states, “Increasingly, lone individuals with no connection with or formal ties to established or identifiable terrorist organizations are rising up to engage in violence.  These individuals are often inspired or motivated by some larger political movement that they are not actually a part of, but nonetheless draw spiritual and emotional sustenance and support from. Indeed, over the past 10 years or so—with the exception of the two World Trade Center attacks and that on the Pentagon—all of the most significant terrorist incidents that occurred in the United States were perpetrated either by a lone individual or very tight two- or three-man conspiratorial cells.”(Hoffman, 2002)  A prime example of a leaderless jihad and home grown terrorism would be the individuals who conducted the Boston Marathon Bombings.  These individuals, one self-radicalized and the other seemingly radicalized by his older brother represent a new threat which resides underneath the radar of national and international intelligence services until after they have committed an attack.  This presents unique challenges to the intelligence and security apparatus of the target country as there is usually very little foreknowledge or warning of attacks committed by these individuals.

Conclusion

The questions this research attempted to answer were as follows:  “What threats will we face from terrorism in the future?  How will terrorist evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves?”   Unfortunately, it is clear that terrorism is here to stay; it is a tactic which will always be utilized by militant actors who confront militarily superior enemies.  According to Weinberg & Eubank, the principal perpetrators of inter-civilizational terrorism from 1968 to 1997, have been groups and individuals drawn from Islamic civilizations.(Weinberg & Eubank, 2002)   This trend seems to be in line to continue as the  analysis of the information gathered seems to support that the primary terrorist threat the U.S. will face in the future will continue to be from those who are motivated by an Islamic fundamentalist ideology.   Jihadist in the form of Salafist and Khumeinist who’s main goal is the establishment of a Global Caliphate via the overthrow of Regimes which they feel are nothing more than apostates and by forcing the U.S. out of the Region.  Yet this ideology does not seem to simply stop at that end.  It seems they desire a World where Radical Islam rules the day, where everyone is subject to and under Sharia Law, where Islam is THE Religion and the rule is convert or die.

As the international community continues its efforts against terrorism, the terrorist are forced to adapt, evolve and develop new TTP’s in order to survive.  This evolution is shifting away from AQ sitting as the major threat to the U.S. and the World, but being replaced by adherents of the ideology of AQ , or as it this is known, AQ the social movement.  This will bring about the rise of new organizations, and the threat of leaderless jihad.  Leaderless Jihad refers to individuals or small groups who have no organizational structure or affiliation, yet due to their belief in the Jihadist mind set, have chosen to commit acts of terrorism.  Compounding this threat is that these individuals are not necessarily from outside of our borders.  Those who support this mind set can also come in the form of U.S. citizens who choose to commit these acts of their own accord or by joining an established organization.  The second and third order effects of these individuals joining established organizations, is the evolution of terrorist with clean skins.  These individuals are “clean” in the fact that they are not from a country known for producing radicalized individuals, they have no ties to terrorist groups and due to citizenship have unfettered access to targets in their home countries.

As to the stated hypothesis of this research effort; “As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replace by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.”   The information gathered does seem to provide a definitive answer in support of the stated hypothesis.  As previously stated, the information gathered seems to support that the primary terrorist threat the U.S. will face in the future will continue to be from those who are motivated by an Islamic fundamentalist ideology.   AQ the organization has been on the decline since 9/11 yet AQ the social movement is increasing rapidly and giving rise, and, or focus to organizations such as AQAP, AQIM and Al Shabaab.  These organizations have taken the mantra of AQ and are conducting acts of terrorism in support of these goals, not only in their respective regions, but globally.  At the very least these organizations will continue to prove a destabilizing force around the world.  Organizations like Al Shabaab pose an additional threat as they have recruited large numbers of individuals from the Somali diaspora within the U.S.  In addition to recruiting these individuals, Al Shabaab has not hesitated to utilize them in an operational capacity.  Some of these individual now hold U.S. citizenship and as such become clean skin terrorist.  The other impact of AQ the social movement is the rise of leaderless jihad in the form of individuals or small groups who conduct acts of terrorism in support of the Jihadist ideology.  Hezbollah and Let seem to present the largest international threat post AQ.  Hezbollah has expanded its base of operations from Lebanon and now has a strong foothold in Central and South America.  It has alliances with TOC’s and is now involved in drug trafficking itself.  Hezbollah’s backing from Iran, strong recruiting pool and deep hatred of the U.S. combined with the alliances with TOC within the Americas should present a strong warning to those within the IC and the CT community.  LeT is one of the only Islamic Terrorist groups which has seen rapid growth post 9/11.   While other groups were feeling the impacts of CT efforts, LeT was sheltered by the Pakistani Government and has grown in capacity, capability and reach.  In addition, LeT now leads most other terrorist organizations in its efforts to recruit clean skin members and has demonstrated a willingness to employ these individuals.     LeT’s espoused ideology goes far beyond its regional objectives and clearly the leadership of LeT have international aspirations.  In the case of LeT, it is irrelevant whether they move outside of their current operational environment as they are in a position to be the only terrorist organization in existence which has the ability to bring two nuclear powers to war with each other. 

In summary, the major threat of terrorism against the U.S. in the future seems to continue to be from Islamic terrorist with Jihadist ideologies.  These organizations will adapt to terrorist tactics by forming alliances with TOC’s, recruiting individuals with clean skins and fermenting leaderless jihad.   Organizations such as AQAP, AQIM, Al Shabaab, Hezbollah and LeT will continue to make up the bulk of organized terrorist organizations which pose a threat to the U.S.  They will most probably continue to experience success within their current operational areas and will increasing begin to conduct operations on a global scale.  At the end of the day, terrorist will adapt to the TTP’s of those who they target.  Terrorism will continue to evolve and morph, constantly positioning itself to pose a threat to those who are counter to their ideologies.

References

Cetron, M. & Owens, D., “55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism”, The Proteus     Trends Series, Forecasting International, Volume 1, Issue 2, February 2008, accessed via  http://www.carlisle.army.mil/proteus/docs/55-terror.pdf, accessed on 7 September 2013

Farah, Douglas, “Transnational Organized Crime, Terrorism, and Criminalized States in Latin   America:  An Emerging Tier-One National Security Priority”, Strategic Studies Institute,          U.S. Army War College, August 2012, accessed via             http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1117, accessed           on 9 September 2013

Gartenstein-Ross, Daveed, “The Strategic Challenge of Somalia's Al-Shabaab”,   The Middle         East Quarterly, Volume XVI, Number 4, Fall 2009, accessed via      http://www.meforum.org/2486/somalia-al-shabaab-strategic-challenge?gclid=CLT-        qeawsKMCFYxi2godo0-W3w, accessed on 29 September 2013

Gray, D. & Stockham, E, “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: the evolution from Algerian Islamism to transnational terror”, African Journal of Political Science and International       Relations, Vol. 2 (4), pp. 091-097, December 2008, accessed via http://www.academicjournals.org/ajpsir/PDF/Pdf2008/Dec/Gray%20and%20Stockham.p            df, accessed on 28 September 2013

Hoffman, Bruce, “Al Qaeda, Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities:  An Assessment”,          The RAND Corporation, 2002, accessed via  https://edge.apus.edu/access/content/group/223159/INTL652_wk5/hoffman_trends_aq.pd            f, accessed on 8 September 2013

Ng, Aaron, “In Focus: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Yemen Uprisings”,      International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, CTTA, Counter             Terrorist Trends and Analysis, Volume 3, Issue 6, June 2011, accessed via             https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/attach/9/9976_CTTA-June11.pdf, accessed on 28 September      2013

Noriega, R. & Cardenas, J., “The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America”, American   Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, No. 3, October 2011, accessed via    http://fondazionecdf.it/var/upload/file/1808-01.pdf, accessed on 27 September 2013

Phares, Walid, “The Confrontation; Winning the War Against Future Jihad”, Pallgrave Macmillan, 2008

Sageman, Mark, “Leaderless Jihad”, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2008

Stewart, Scott, “Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft”,  STRATFOR Security Weekly,           11 October 2012, accessed via http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evolution-and-trends-        terrorism-tradecraft, accessed on 8 September 2013

Tellis, Ashley J., “The Menace That is Lashkar-e-Taiba”, Policy Outlook, Carnegie Endowment             for International Peace, March 2012, accessed via       http://carnegieendowment.org/files/LeT_menace.pdf, accessed on 05 September 2013

The White House, “National Strategy for Counterterrorism”, June 2011, accessed via   http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/counterterrorism_strategy.pdf accessed on     05 September  2013

Weinberg, L., & Eubank, W., “Terrorism and the Shape of Things to Come”, EBSCO publishing,    2002,  Accessed via https://edge.apus.edu/access/content/group/223159/INTL652_wk5/weinberg_terrorism_s            hapeofthingstocome.pdf, accessed on 7 September 2013

Unknown, “Al Shabaab’s War with Kenya: Terrorist Group May Have Even Surprised Itself”,         Euronews, 25 September 2013, accessed via             http://www.euronews.com/2013/09/25/behind-al-shabaab-s-war-with-kenya-terrorist-  group-may-have-even-surprised-/, accessed on 29 September 2013

About the Author(s)

Joseph A. Warrick is a retired U.S. Army Warrant Officer with over 18 years experience within the SOF community and nearly 30 years total experience in Counterintelligence and HUMINT operations both within and outside of SOF.  He is currently serving as an PE ops officer within the SOF Community with duty at Fort Bragg, NC.

Comments

pluscachange

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 9:56am

The studies don't seem to focus on the funding, and that would be a key part of defeating them--kill the stomache and the head dies.
Much money for Islamist movements is said to come from the Gulf States. What are the options?
A concern is that the article mixes Hezbollah with Al Quaida and Sunni movements, and also puts the Al Quaida brand on franchisees of Al Quaida--which not only builds Al Quaida but distracts the public. Al Quaida's threat is through it's students, it functioned like a Harvard Business School for terrorists and amalgamated a lot of training material into a CD rom set--slick and potentially a game advancer (see Rohan Gunaratna's Inside Al Quaida).

As Tim McVeigh showed, we have enough home grown paranoid/delusional far to the right types stoked on an outpouring of violent anti-government tracts wrapped up in alleged patriotism that has echoes in some mainstream movements to be as capable of violence as the KKK was (and still is in it's new reframing as post punk, post skinhead nihilism with a racist bent).

carl

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 8:18pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RantCorp:

Great post. It is much easier to learn and remember when the instruction comes in the form of a story.

I have a question. I figure the Rowdys of the world love their children and love their daughters as much as their sons. Do you think that over the years as they see and hear that daughters can be more than wives, and their favorite daughter let's it be known that she wants to be say, a vet and he wants to make her happy; that that kind of thing is going to make changes in Afghan society?

TheCurmudgeon

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 10:50pm

In reply to by carl

Carl,

I will disagree with you only to the point that you are imputing yourself into the village elder. That is what you would do. He did not need to take sides. The Taliban did not threaten him, they had no reason to. He lived according to their standards. They would only be a threat if he took on a different set of standards and a set of secular values. He was simply saying that he was not coming over to our side.

carl

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 9:47pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

Curmudgeon:

I think the village elder had taken a side. And he explained why. It seems to me he took that side because he was forced into it by threat of violence. He was scared. He definitely told Taliban & Co when you guys came into the village, but I wonder how often he told you guys when they came into the village and what they wanted. In the circumstances that isn't tolerating Taliban & Co, that is taking a side, forced into taking a side, but taking a side.

This all gets down to classic small war stuff. He is forced to take a side through threat of violence, that violence being directed by a shadow government. Taliban & Co have an effective local preponderance of force despite our B-1s and drones. If you protect him, he just got a reason to maybe change sides.

TheCurmudgeon

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 9:33pm

In reply to by carl

Yes, night letters, and the fear they induced, real or imagined, were a tactic used. But my experience with the locals is that they tolerated the Taliban. On more that one occasion during a meeting with local elders I was told to be careful what I revealed because there would be Taliban sympathizers in the audience. It was a standard line at the end of a meeting to ask our host to please let us know if the Taliban come to their village. In one location, not far from where my recon was hit by an IED earlier that year, the village elder was surprisingly honest. He told my XO "The Taliban will be here tomorrow. You were here today, they will be here tomorrow to find out what you wanted." My XO asked him why he did not fight the Taliban. The elder responded while holding up his walking stick "You have a gun, Taliban has gun, I have a stick." The implication was that, unless we gave him a reason, he would not take sides.

In other villages I had the locals tell me "you build your road, but we don't want your religion or anything else from you."

Rantcorp rightly points out that most locals had little interest in politics. Who controlled Kabul had little real impact in their lives. What mattered to them is what affected them. I found the Afghans to be a pragmatic people. They did not get involved unless it was important or there was some gain for them. Many things would excite them, but very few things got them seriously upset. Screwing with their society, their accepted way of life, their honor, did.

carl

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 8:07pm

In reply to by TheCurmudeon

Curmudgeon:

There are a few things wrong with what you wrote. Perhaps I shouldn't say since you and RC have been there done that and I have not but here it goes.

I don't believe Rowdy's children would be at the school unless he allowed it. From what I read the Rowdys of that world aren't people whose families do things without his permission.

Also from what I read Rowdy probably wouldn't be surprised about the status of any timber land and whether he can use it or not regardless of what he tries to put over on an American patrol.

Perhaps Rowdy is subject to the Taliban line about inoculations, maybe not. He cares about the health of his family and he is a pretty smart guy so maybe he sees the value. I wouldn't sell him short on that. After all the TTP has to actually kill health workers in Pakistan to stop them from giving inoculations. From that I gather that a lot of people are eager to get them for their children.

Hajji Gil may also be upset at the Americans because the conflict has changed things and he doesn't have the business opportunities and political pull he once had, or maybe not. Maybe he is happy the Yanks are around because his political power is increased and his personal business is doing better, or maybe not.

The big thing you forgot to mention is Rowdy's and Hajji Gil's actions perhaps are being strongly affected because Hajji Gil's counterpart in the next village down the road had his throat cut because he didn't do as Taliban & Co asked, and Rowdy himself had a letter nailed to his door last night. Some of the men who did that spend rather a lot of time in Pakistan.

TheCurmudgeon

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 9:28pm

In reply to by RantCorp

From your post: "IMO this village-centric orientation to legitimate governance suggests to me that the conflict in AF is neither a Revolution nor a Resistance. The suggestion that an Afghan villager, upon hearing a GIRoA proposal, would be so enraged so as to bury an IED on the road and blow up some near or distant villager is extremely doubtful." If the conflict is not fueled by the Afghan villager, than it is fueled by outsiders. My experience, limited as it was, indicated that most of the combatants I ran across were Afghans villagers. Only once did I run into anyone who was not from within a valley or two from my location.

It was an observation contradicting your assertion. He was not a local that anyone could identify. But he was the only non-local combatant I ran into (that I could clearly identify). Others may have had a different experience.

RantCorp

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 9:06pm

In reply to by TheCurmudeon

C,

There are 1.6 billion people within a radius from the Af/PAk border and the nearest Arabian country.

What is your point?

RC

TheCurmudeon

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 5:05pm

In reply to by RantCorp

I aim to please.

We clearly disagree, but I stand by my assessment that our actions in Afghanistan contributed to a locally driven resistance. There were others in Afghanistan who came to join the war against the infidel, but they were not alone. Those people we captured were local. Only once did we come across an Arab.

RantCorp

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 4:07pm

In reply to by TheCurmudeon

Curmudeon,

You made me laugh.

The scenario you depict indicates you have it on good authority that the ISAF,the ANA,ANP,ALP,VSO are mostly violent morons and the local governance, NGO effort is equally as stupid.

Furthermore you depict the native attitude to traditional values as so fickle that a determined individual who is willing to inflict a good dose of indiscriminate murder with an IED is what is needed to steer his wayward fellow Afghans back on the straight and narrow.

Thirty years in Asia/Pacific and I had no idea.

I can't thank you enough.

RC

TheCurmudeon

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 3:38pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RantCorp
I agree with most of your description of the life of Afghan Rowdy, but I disagree with you conclusion that this is not a resistance movement. Let me explain.

Afghan Rowdy is going through his normal day.

Rowdy sends his children to fetch water but they are not there. His children, even his daughters, are at the new, American made school where they will spend the day learning who knows what. Rowdy is upset but there is work to do. He will deal with his children when they come home.
Rowdy goes up the hill to collect timber but he is stopped by an American Patrol. He cannot go up into the woods. The timber lies across a line that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan, and besides, he does not have permission from the local governor to take lumber from the hill. He tries to explain that his family, his clan, have claimed this land as their own since his great grandfather threw Alexander off it (true story, heard that one once). Now he is fuming.

Rowdy goes back down the hill to his home where he is expecting a big feast but his children were gone all morning and his wife was talking to some strangely dressed women who is telling her that her children should get shots. Rowdy has heard of these people from Christian organizations that give injects to the Muslim children to make them sterile. He throws the woman out of his house.

Rowdy goes to see Hajji Gil to tell him that he was unable to get the lumber he had pledged. Other men are there. They are upset. One complains that his older son who was supposed to help him clean and fix the irrigation ditches had been lured away to the city to work for the Americans for money. Another complains that the Americans are talking to young women and that they are using strange hand gestures. Hajji Gil listens. These acts are threatening his village. He knows that in a land as harsh and foreboding as Afghanistan disruptions such as these could mean deaths over the coming winter. Perhaps, he thinks, it is time to again do as our forefathers had with Alexander and the British and eject these unwanted social engineers. To the groups of men, the Americans are threatening their way of life and they must be stopped.

The changes that we are making, as good intentioned as they are – as closely aligned with the values we hold dear - are threatening to the Afghan Rowdy’s very existence. They stand in stark contrast to the communal values of the village where everyone must pull their weight for the good of the group. So he will place an IED in the road, or perhaps he will know that a man from the Taliban placed one there and he will say nothing, if it means that next summer there are no more Americans in his village.

RantCorp

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 3:06pm

The Curmudgeon wrote,

‘The two views are diametrically opposed, but WE don’t see that. We assume that our value system is universal. It is not.’

IMO our failure to understand the profound difference between ‘We the People’ and ‘We the Village People’ lies at the core of our frustration that so much blood and treasure expended in Afghanistan achieves so little positive change.

The whole Mother of Parliaments notion that the path to political acceptance comes thru the legitimacy expressed thru General Elections, separation of church and state, free press, State monopoly on violence, taxation etc. may in fact be the philosophical hallmarks of a governance dullard and a legitimacy philistine.

Legitimate governance is as important to an Afghan as it is to us but they consider we to be poorly qualified to tell them what that entails.

The ‘We the Village People’ argument being that all those societal/cultural elements we consider to be essential to good governance and peaceful co-existence are in their mind’s eye as crass and dehumanizing as Wahhabism, Salafism, Takfirism, Marxism, Maoism, Year Zero etc. that are universally condemned as abhorrent.

How much better is the prospect for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ if your village-centric form of governance enables you to interact with the decision makers on a day to day, eye-ball to eye-ball basis rather than hang on the vagaries of a chard on a ballot card every four years.

I could draw on the political sensitivities of the heavily armed hillbillies half way down the track from my house but perhaps a ‘Day in the Life ‘of a typical Afghan villager rather than the Good Ole Boys yonder might be more useful.

Let’s call our Afghan Rowdy.

Rowdy gets up a dawn and accompanies his children to the communal well to fetch water. He notices the state of the hearth, the lifting tackle and bucket and is pleased that his quiet complaint last week has been addressed and all have been repaired. He sends all but the two oldest home and goes to the milking paddock to milk the goats. Straight away he notices Hey Soo’s still hasn’t moved his bucks and kid-goats up to the alpine pastures and the milking pasture’s grass is getting overgrazed. He makes a mental note to speak with Hajji Gil at afternoon prayers.

Just before ten the kids load the donkey with the skin of milk and they head to the flour mill. Upon arrival Rowdy immediately notices the volume of water hitting the impeller is low and the water is cloudy. Decides to recommend to Hajji Gil that the working party from the Yo Yo , Mushy and George Washington clan commissioned to repair the recently damage canal up the valley may have to be brought forward before the stream catastrophically breaches the canal walls.

Loads the donkey with flour and sends the kids home. Spends the rest of the day hauling logs down from the family plantation for his new brother-in-law’s new house and was pleased to see all the large families had sent their most able-bodied men for the brutally heavy work.

At day’s end the daughters new family put out a huge feast that sent everyone home in good spirits.

At afternoon prayer Rowdy told Hajji Gil the family agreed to donate two dozen good straight timbers for the new minaret and slipped in a quiet aside requesting if he’d get his wife to swing past the in-laws to see how his newly-wed daughter was getting on.

The list of indicators of what is good governance is endless – and these are the more simple physical examples. The whole gambit of abstract nuances flagging villages hopes, fears, grievances and aspirations require several more layers of governance that require considerably more skill and sophistication than the merely obvious listed above.

Some folks may consider these matters as somewhat trivial and are not of sufficient gravitas to fulfill the universally human requirement to feel a sense that justice in their lives prevails. Those folks have obviously not spent much time in an Afghan village. If any single one of these ‘Day in the Life’ events were left unaddressed for an inordinate period of time or blatantly dismissed out of hand a death would soon follow. That done, unless the full weight of the village was to right the ‘injustice’ , the grievance could rapidly escalate into a blood feud that could bring about the destruction of entire families.

Compare the Afghan villager attitude to legitimate governance and the attitude that persuades hundreds of millions of Westerners that casting a secret ballot once every four years is too much of an inconvenience.

It is this complexity in village-centric governance which can cause a great amount of friction when changes are proposed - no matter how well-meaning. Whether a road, bridge, school, medical center, mosque, COP,FOB etc. the tremendous resistance is not meant as a judgement on the proposal but more of a deeply held belief that something as complex and sensitive as village politics can quickly fly off its axis and cause political ‘fires’ to emerge that proceed to burn any proposed changes to ashes – and threaten many others besides.

In my experience this helps explain the poor turnout for a project that all parties have apparently happily agreed will help the village economy, security and prestige no mistake. Come the project’s D-Day and the turnout consists of two old men, the village idiot, a gaggle of shy little girls and a mob of unerringly accurate stone-throwing small boys.

The ‘hurry up and wait’ might sound like a quaint idiom but what it defines is a period within which the ‘agreement’ must be absorbed into a complex and complicated village psyche. An enigma that does not happily yield to non-traditional pressures, no matter how desirable or well-meaning.

Bearing in mind the deeply intuitive nature of an Afghan villager’s expectation/experience of legitimate governance I would hazard a guess that they couldn’t give a damn who was sitting in the District Governors House in the nearest DC and most certainly do not give a shit about the ethnicity of the Executive Office in distant Kabul or what those within may or may not deem as important. By contrast many Westerners spend no end of time arguing over dinning tables, in bars, reading newspapers and listening to broadcasts about what their quinquennial elected government are arguing about possibly five times zones away.

To an Afghan a form of governance that dictates some anonymous government official must affix a stamp of approval on births, deaths, marriages, property ownership, debt, water rights, disposable income, religious holidays and security is one that is incredibly stunted. In comparison the empathy they enjoy from their governance dwarfs our model in every way. The lack of intimacy and immediacy from the decision maker suggests to them it would be impossible for them to survive in our system let alone enjoy ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

So what?

IMO this village-centric orientation to legitimate governance suggests to me that the conflict in AF is neither a Revolution nor a Resistance. The suggestion that an Afghan villager, upon hearing a GIRoA proposal, would be so enraged so as to bury an IED on the road and blow up some near or distant villager is extremely doubtful.

I dare suggest if they were inclined to attempt to understand the ways and means many foreign governments obligate their citizens to kill and die on their behest the average Afghan could be forgiven for thinking how unAfghan that kind of compulsion was.

Upon further reflection they might reiterate the oft forgotten fact that there were no Afghans on the planes on 9/11 and we might better be served looking at people from other countries to explain the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.

RC

TheCurmudgeon

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 10:03am

In reply to by Bill C.

Perhaps, I am not sure I agree with the nature of the dichotomy. I think of it in more of a Theda Skocpol sort of way. In this case there are many different types of Social Revoultion, but they all have in common that they arise from below and the result is changes in the political structure and the social structure.

"Skocpol asserts that Social Revolutions are rapid and basic transformations of a society's state and class structures. This is different from, for example, a mere 'rebellion' which merely involves a revolt of subordinate classes but may not create structural change and from a Political Revolution that may change state structures but not social structures. Industrialization can transform social structure but not change the political structure. What is unique about Social Revolutions, she says, is that basic changes in social structure and political structure occur in a mutually reinforcing fashion and these changes occur through intense sociopolitical conflict."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/States_and_Social_Revolutions

The interesting thing is, if we look at Social Revolutions in this way as a seperate category, then what we were trying to do in both Iraq and Afghanistan were a form externally implemented Social Revolution. Since Social Revolutions as described by Skocpol are internally generated, I am not sure they truely fit into that category or perhaps I should stick to a more generic way of looking at things rather than Skocpol's somewhat specific category.

TheCurmudgeon

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 12:14pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Let me throw-out a definitional scheme. Three types of violent intra-state movements that can result in political change:

1. Political Revolt – violent movement that seeks to change the leadership of the government without a significant change in the political system. Example, a military coup to replace the leadership of a military government.

2. Political Revolution - a violent movement that seeks to change political system. Replacement of political leadership is incidental. Example – the American revolution and perhaps the French revolution - but the French revolution clearly bleeds into the next category.

3. Social Revolution – a violent movement that seeks to change the nature of society. The political changes that result are necessary to the complete restructuring of society but are incidental to the intent of the social reorganization. Religious movements generally fall into this category.

I am sure these have been discussed before.

Bill C.

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:06am

Regardless of the rhetoric -- and/or the methods used by these dispersed populations -- the goal would seem to be:

a. To stand against and defeat those who would seek to transform them along modern western political, economic and social lines.

b. And, via this resistance effort, protect and preserve their preferred way of life and their preferred way of governance -- and protect and preserve the values, attitudes and beliefs upon which this preferred way of life and preferred way of governance are based.

Now: Work backward -- or forward -- from there.

What do we get: Political movement, social movement or some of both?

If the people of the dispersed West used various rhetoric and various methods to stand against those who sought to undermine, eliminate and replace their preferred way of life and their preferred way of governance -- and to stand against those whose sought to undermine and replace the values, attitudes and beliefs upon which the West's preferred way of life and preferred way of governance are based --

Then, in looking at this/these resistance effort(s) by people within the dispersed West, what would we have: a political movement, a social movement or some of both?

In deciding our answer, consider the following:

"Social movement, loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structure or values. Although social movements differ in size, they are all essentially collective. That is, they result from the more or less spontaneous coming together of people whose relationships are not defined by rules and procedures but who merely share a common outlook on society ... "

"All definitions of social movement reflect the notion that social movements are intrinsically related to social change. They do not encompass the activities of people as members of stable social groups with established, unquestioned structures, norms, and values. The behaviour of members of social movements does not reflect the assumption that the social order will continue essentially as it is. It reflects, instead, the faith that people collectively can bring about or prevent social change if they will dedicate themselves to the pursuit of a goal ... "

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/551335/social-movement#md-med…

TheCurmudgeon

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 4:15pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

NOTE: This comment was intended to come after my earlier comment below.

I would argue that the value system that supports religious political movements do more than legitimatize the political leaders – its foundation is built on God’s authority which is not limited to the political sphere. God (in the singular, as in the God of Abraham) has authority and dominion over all things.

Look at it this way. All legitimacy to rule is based on the value structure of the society. Politicians invoke the values of the population to legitimatize themselves and their political system. In a society where the value system is largely aligned with the dominant religion, there are two ways of claiming rightful legitimacy. The first is that you are appointed by God to act as his steward on earth. Your duties are limited. External to you, but supporting your claims, are the religious leadership. This is the way Kings of ole ruled. The other way is to be God’s representative on earth. This is the way religious political movements work. They evoke God directly. To them there is no corner of society that is not properly the dominion of God. In that sense, they are a social movement as well as a political movement … but I may be over thinking this.

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:03am

In reply to by Bill M.

(Ok, let me see if I can gain another 15-25% of agreement)

I think we need to be careful not to trick ourselves into believing something is what we have named it, rather than being what it actually is.

For example, we call the government we elevated into power in Afghanistan and helped shape (and still have to protect from its own people...)a "democracy" - yet as it excludes the defeated segment of the population from participation by design it is actually a form of tyranny, not democracy. Calling it a democracy does not make it one. Actually insurgency is a much closer cousin to democracy than the governments enabled and approved by foreign powers that we continue to facilitate.

Similarly, we call the many UW areas of operation and the nationalist and regional insurgent groups that AQ conducts UW through within those areas as being AQ also. This certainly facilitates targeting, and many of these groups chose to call themselves AQ as well. But calling yourself AQ or being labeled as AQ does not change the fundamental nature of what one is.

AQ is a small, non-state political action group dedicated to breaking excessive Western influence over the politics of the greater middle east; the removal of Muslim regimes who they perceive as being more about self-interest and foreign interest, than about Islam and the interests of the people under their rule; and the formation of a union of Muslim states under their interpretation of Sharia law. They operate illegally and employ a radicalized brand of Islamist dogma and terrorist tactics to advance their agenda, and do so within the context of a regional UW campaign plan. This is illegal politics coupled with criminal violence. No more, no less.

AQ could exist even if all the governments in the region were wonderful and if foreign influence was appropriate - but if that were the case we would have probably never heard of them. They are important because those conditions do not exist and because there is so much latent and active insurgent energy for them to tap into.

AQ is a very small organization (heavily decimated in the FATA tactically, but with no positive strategic effect, btw) with no population of their own, so they form a "population of interest" by leveraging the populations of others. Some individuals or groups may agree in full or part with AQ's platform - but I suspect most turn to AQ for help because they are the only ones out there willing to help. These are populace-based groups looking to wage revolutionary warfare to coerce change out of one of many regimes in the region who are either unable or unwilling to keep up with the reasonable demands of what are currently rapidly evolving populations.

UW and insurgency makes for strange bedfellows. Americans turned to their traditional enemy France for support; just as Vietnam turned to their traditional enemy China. We did not want to be French and the Vietnamese did not want to be Russian or Chinese. But you take help where you can find it, and when one is up against the most powerful nation on the planet, good help can be hard to find.

AQAP is not purely AQ; nor is AQIM or AQI or any of the other AQs. Each is a small cadre of UW operatives seeking to advance the AQ political platform by leveraging the latent or active revolutionary insurgent energy among these many diverse populations with their own unique histories, cultures and issues with their existing systems of governance.

Would AQ political success lead to social changes? Certainly. But they exist to challenge, coerce and change existing political structures and change the balance of power in the region.

Will the political success of the various revolutionary populations and organizations accepting help from AQ (and sometimes donning AQ T-shirts) result in some cultural changes in the various places they occur? Probably to some small degree, but I suspect most of the populations these groups emerge from and represent want n nowhere near the radical cultural changes promoted by AQ or the insurgent groups who actually carry the fight.

We fear the sizzle so much we lose sight of the steak. Governments at home and abroad have it within their power to reduce the energy behind these political movements to a tremendous degree through very small, reasonable changes of foreign and domestic policies, laws, and how both of those are advanced.

Instead we keep one foot on the gas and one foot on the break, and wonder why all we seem to get is a whole lot of smoke and noise at tremendous cost, and never seem to get where we want to be. Applying convenient labels that help sooth our conscious and blind us to reality in equal parts is not helpful, but historically, it is what governments do in these types of populace-based political conflicts.

TheCurmudgeon

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 10:49am

In reply to by Bill M.

I think we have to be careful when we use certain terms that We (the capital “W” indicates I am referring to Westerners) define in a specific way. For example, terms like “good governance” and “rule of law” to us means providing a system where every individual has equal rights and equal opportunities for social and economic success free from governmental interference. Things like the infrastructure are taken for granted. To a tribal group, good governance and rule of law means that the members of my tribe are favored over outsiders and certain members of the group deserve a greater portion of the power and property than others based on their position. The two views are diametrically opposed, but WE don’t see that. We assume that our value system is universal. It is not.

Bill M.

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 3:43am

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

I have been thinking about Bob's comment, and I can meet him 25% of the way with a Venn Diagram that shows the overlap between social movements and political warfare. Social movements can morph into political movement and political warfare, but what draws people into these movements has more to do with social movement theory than political theory in my opinion, but agree it can argued logically by advocates of either view.

I do think the emphasis that it is the government's fault is a bit dated and has limited application. Where it does have application it is relevant, but where it doesn't it leaves a void in understanding. If you take Bob's argument to the extreme, this assumes if all governments around the world were seen as good by Al Qaeda, then Al Qaeda would no longer exist as a violent extremist movement. That may be true, but it would also assume that all governments would have embraced a harsh interpretation of Sharia Law, and even that probably wouldn't be enough for these clowns. I'm just not sure where the government model takes us? Surrender? Governments have no requirement to protect human rights? They should simply acquiesce to Al Qaeda demands and all will be well?

There is no doubt that the Al-Qaeda movement took advantage of corrupt and poor governments in some cases, but it doubtful that those who started the uprising with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood had a desire to be subservient to an Al Qaeda inspired governance model. Most people in the world reject their views, even most Muslims, yet if we accept Bob's argument as I understand it, if the government simply took responsibility for being bad and transformed and became good, good to who isn't quite clear, the Al Qaeda issue wouldn't exist.

I'll offer a contrary view, any government that doesn't protect its people against the AQ movement is inept and illegitimate, because the people want to be protected from this greater evil. A greater evil than poor governance in most cases.

Of course none of the above explains why AQ is a social movement, this requires more input I'll get to on the weekend hopefully, but in short is a movement based largely on social identity (not political party), and its behavior is influenced more by social than political factors. It is a gray area admittedly, but it is larger in scope than a political movement. Jihadists fight globally to pursue larger social identity goals versus local political objectives. That doesn't mean in some locations they don't engage in political warfare, but the political structure is attacked only because it prevents them from realizing their larger social agenda. People aren't getting indoctrinated online via political beliefs, but via about beliefs on how society should be as a whole.

Worth reading this article based on an interview with Sageman.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/front/etc/today.html

TheCurmudgeon

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 3:28pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

I think you can properly call AQ a "social movement" because it seeks to change more than simply the political structure in many places. I would use as a comparison Ayatollah Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Once in power Khomeini did more than simply assume the trappings of political leadership, he restructured the entire society. I would argue that AQ attempts to do something similar anywhere they go.

A purely political movement only seeks to gain power from the prior leader and make nominal changes. Perhaps the recent revolution in the Ukraine would be such an example.

Almost every religiously motivated political movement is truly a social movement. The wars between the Protestants and the Catholics in England involved restructuring social institutions including how people dressed and how holidays were celebrated and the like.

Of course, this opinion is based on a secular view of political power. If you assume that there is no difference between religious and political power (i.e. all power is political), then I can see your problem.

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 1:11pm

In reply to by Bill M.

I struggle to grasp what is meant by this being a "social movement." To me this is a political movement, plain and simple.

AQ has an organizational political agenda, and they conduct UW to tap into the energy of politically frustrated populations across the region, and individuals around the world.

Ideology is simply the critical tool one must employ to conduct illegal politics. This then binds the political movement to a particular group of people who share common beliefs or issues. This was true with the message of "land reform" that worked so well in China and South East Asia during the communist insurgencies to address the politics of Colonialism; and it applies to the Islam-based message to address the politics of Muslim governments either unable or unwilling to evolve in their approach to serving their rapidly evolving populations.

So I find this statement below to be dangerously off base, and shaped by the the bias of governments overly secure in their legal legitimacy and the rule of law, and looking for some excuse to rationalize away why significant segments of their population tolerate, support or join such violient, illegal polical challenges as presented by AQ and the many insurgent populations and organizations they conduct UW among.

"Since 9/11, AQ the organization has been contained, yet the ideology of AQ has given birth to AQ the social movement. It is AQ the social movement which continues to spread the ideology of AQ. As the ideology spreads it inspires those who hold the same desires as al’ Qaeda the organization to conduct acts of violence based on the ideological teachings of AQ. And although AQ may be contained, AQ the social movement has grown dramatically."

What has given birth to the ilegal political movement is the inadequacy of legal vehicles to address these fundamentally political issues. We don't start becoming more effective in getting to true stability in these places where such messages resonate until we stop blaming the message and the messenger so completely, and look seriously at the major political reform necessary within these states, and policy reform necessary for powerful external sources of influence such as the United States.

Bill M.

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 12:48pm

Good article with some great references. I recall a few months sitting on a CT panel in front of one of the war college classes and I described Islamic terrorism as a social movement, which generated a few snickers. It seemed the only person who agreed with my assessment at that time was an Israeli officer. I'm glad to see Joseph and Dr. Hoffman have also referred to it as a social movement. It has implications for how we defend against it and how we should conduct disruption operations to minimize breathing new life into the movement.

If anyone disagrees that Islamic terrorism is a social movement I like to see some supporting arguments that counter the social movement description.