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Contemporary terrorism


Contemporary terrorism James J.F. Forest Director of Terrorism Studies The Combating Terrorism Center At west point NJ Homeland Security Conference, 10 April 2007 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Contemporary terrorism

Contemporary terrorism
James J.F. Forest Director of Terrorism Studies
The Combating Terrorism Center
At west point
NJ Homeland Security Conference, 10 April 2007
The views expressed herein are those of the
author and do not purport to reflect the position
of the United States Military Academy, the
Department of the Army, or the Department of
Terrorism Key Terms
  • Definitions (many)
  • Vision
  • Power
  • Strategy
  • Duty
  • Shame
  • Freedom Fighter
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Will to kill (intent)
  • Skill to kill (capability)
  • Insurgency
  • Ideology
  • Enabling Environments
  • Radicalization
  • Emotions
  • Moral Disengagement
  • Asymmetric Warfare
  • Facilitators/Causes
  • Learning Organization
  • Counter vs. Anti
  • Hard/Soft Power

Early Historical examples
  • Zealots 1st century BCE, murdered Romans in
    broad daylight in Jerusalem
  • Thugs Hindu sect that strangled robbed
    victims in ritual sacrifice
  • Assassins Muslim followers of Hassan (Persian,
    not Arabic) known for public acts of violence
  • French revolution use of revolutionary
    tribunals rule by fear/terror (Robespierres
  • Sons of Liberty provoked by Stamp Act,
    organized mobs to tar and feather colonists still
    loyal to the king, forcing many to flee the
    country and settle in Canada
  • Klu Klux Klan effective in spreading fear
    forced federal government to end Reconstruction

Intentions A brief history
  • 1880s-1920s
  • Anarchists, Nechaevs Revolutionary Catechism
    Bakunin Kropotkins propaganda by the deed
    words are not enough . . .
  • 1920s-1960s
  • Anti-colonialism Freedom for indigenous peoples
    to decide own system, structure
  • Anti-racism, imperialism fewer assassinations
    then previous wave attacks mainly on police,
    military, colonial govt. targets
  • 1960s-1990s
  • Marxism, nationalism, ethnic separatism
  • Civilian targets Carlos Marighella, Minimanual
    of the Urban Guerilla IRA, The Green Book
  • Shiite revolution state-sponsored terror (Iran,
  • 1990s present
  • Afghanistan (1980s) Jihad to oust the Soviets
    Iraq (present) Jihad to oust the Americans
  • Fatwas against the West oust them from holy
    lands late 1990s shift from near enemy to far

Intentions ideologies
  • The role of ideology in a revolutionary movement
    is to clarify, denounce, explain, solve and
  • Ideology legitimates the struggleit converts
    brute power to rightful authority
  • Ideologies fuel both local and global perceptions
    of injustices and need for action/retribution
  • Ideologies offer a combination of intellectual
    and emotional appeal
  • Events may be interpreted/twisted in ways that
    support ideology

Ideologies of violence
  • Violence is seen as necessary for achieving
  • Political change (e.g., Kashmir, Tamil Eelam,
    overthrow govt., etc.)
  • Social change (e.g., France headscarf ban,
    anti-abortionists, etc.)
  • Economic change (e.g., stop oil exports change
    resource distribution)
  • Religious change (e.g., fundamentalist
    interpretations of the faith)
  • A Variety of Terrorist Ideologies
  • Nationalists and Ethnic Separatists (e.g.,
    Anti-colonial groups, Chechens, PLO, Tamil
    Tigers/LTTE, Basques/ETA, Kurds/PKK)
  • Left-wing (e.g., radical Communists
  • Right Wing (often target race and ethnicity
    Nazi, Aryan nations, etc.)
  • Religious (e.g., Christian militias, Islamic
    jihadists, Shia revolutionaries, Zionists)
  • Others Anarchists, Environmentalists, Animal
    Rights Extremists Apocalyptic cults, etc.

Ideologies of violence
A Spectrum of Ideologies
Threshold of catastrophic violence
Nonviolent Protests
Apocalyptic Terrorism
Groups that want to change the world, but reject
the need for violent means
Groups that want to destroy the world, for
various reasons,possibly with WMD
Groups that want to change the world, and see a
need for violent means
Capabilities a Brief history
  • 1880s-1920s
  • Communication and transportation patterns
    telegraph daily newspapers railroads
    technology would shrink time and space
  • Early weapons were mostly guns and knives, but
    the invention of dynamite helped launch new
    terrorist capabilities
  • 1920s-1960s
  • Faster means of communication, transportation,
    money transfer
  • 1960s-1990s
  • Global sharing of new timing devices, other
    trigger switches for explosives new types of
  • Airplane hijackings global proliferation of
    small arms light weapons
  • 1990s present
  • Increasing sophistication of IEDs
  • Use of ultimate smart bomb (suicide terrorists)
  • Weapons of Mass Disruption Destruction
  • Globalization enhances capabilities of networked

Modern Trends
  • More violent attacks (and increasing lethality)
    more media coverage
  • Increasing use of suicide bombers (the ultimate
    smart bomb)
  • Important and useful new technologies
  • Innovations in biotechnology, chemical industries
    (including binary explosives)
  • Increasing usefulness of the Internet for target
    surveillance, operational communication and
    coordination, fundraising/friendraising, etc.
  • Funding Sources
  • Bank robberies, extortion, etc.
  • State sponsorship
  • Diaspora support, particular from immigrants to
    developed Western countries
  • Transnational criminal organizations, Trafficking
    in drugs, weapons, banned goods, people

Modern Trends
  • Cellular network organization models developed by
    the Algerian insurgency groups and the IRA are
    now common among most terror groups
  • Insulates leadership from intelligence, law
    enforcement effort
  • Creates challenges for tactical control of
    violence, transaction integrity, et al.
  • Future projections
  • Who will most likely turn to terrorism? Those who
    have the most to lose by the global spread of
    secular, liberal democratic governance . . .
  • Religious terrorist groups are (and will likely
    remain) most common threat worldwide - even
    insurgencies and ethnic separatist groups are
    using religion to justify violence

Religious Terrorism is unique
  • Long-term view of history and future
  • Sense of crisis, threat of secularization,
  • Members believe they are involved in a struggle
    of good vs evil
  • Acting along desires of a diety audience is
    thus not necessarily human.
  • Belief in their own revealed truth from God
    piety and persistence in the faith will give you
    the strength to overcome anything
  • Doing the bidding of a higher power demands
    sacrifice rewards in this life and the next
    unconstrained by laws
  • Complete alienation from existing socio/political
  • Support may be diffuse

Radical Islam
The radical neo-fundamentalists view the action
as more important than the result. Thus,
individual jihad becomes more important than
victory. The goal is to serve God, not to achieve
a certain political agenda. The results will come
when God wills it. - Magnus Norell
  • Religious ideologies are powerful because they
  • theologically supremacist - meaning that all
    believers assume superiority over non-believers,
    who are not privy to the truth of the religion
  • exclusivist - believers are a chosen people, or
    their territory is a holy land
  • absolutist - it is not possible to be a
    half-hearted believer, and you are either totally
    within the system, or totally without it
  • polarizing in terms of right and wrong, good
    and evil, light and dark

Salafi-jihad ideology
Al Qaida and affiliated groups
Salafi-jihad ideology
  • Islam is the one and only way of ruling mankind
    that is acceptable to God
  • Pluralism, the idea that no one has a monopoly on
    truth, is a falsehood, and liberal democracy
    (rule by mans laws) is against Gods will.
  • Muslims should use force to establish a more just
    society. (Mawdudi)
  • Jihad is the only source of internal empowerment
    and reform in the Muslim world. (Qutb, Maqdisi,
    et al.)
  • Muslims must resist the influences of Western
    institutions and traditions that have poisoned
    mankind (Qutb)
  • We have a global conflict between Islam and the
    West. Islam is under siege and only we (the
    Jihadis, the pure defenders of Islam) can lift

Salafi-jihad ideology
  • The world is truly messed up, and only Islam is
    the answer - therefore we (Jihadis) must do all
    that is necessary to tear down the existing order
    and replace it with one built on Islam.
  • We must mobilize the entire Muslim community to
    join our global jihad
  • We must overthrow corrupt, incompetent apostate
    regimes in the Middle East and replace them with
    governments that rule by Sharia law
  • This requires defeating their powerful Western
    patrons (OBL, Zawahiri)
  • Then we must re-establish the Islamic caliphate
    to rule over the entire Muslim world
  • The violence we inflict upon our own people,
    governments, and resources is 1) necessary, 2)
    religiously sanctioned, and 3) really the fault
    of the West, Israel, and apostate regimes.

Elements of the Jihadist Threat
  • Global in scope and strategic objectives
  • Generational in scope epic struggle, David vs.
    Goliath - Bin Laden as Robin Hood
  • The number of the brothers is large . . . I do
    not know everyone who is with us in this base or
    this organization. Bin Laden as Pied Piper,
    with a constant call to jihad as the duty of
    every good Muslim
  • Educated members as martyrs in AQ longer
    planning cycles (9/11 hijackers arriving in U.S.
    as early as 1994)
  • Evolution into a political social movement, a
    global insurgency against Western-oriented
  • Afghanistan and Iraq offering new locations for
    Jihad, indoctrination, tactical training, network

Elements of the Jihadist threat
  • Increasing number and lethality of attacks
  • Attacks are carried out not by AQ-trained members
    or some other centralized group, but by
    affiliates and wanna-bes
  • Use of children and female suicide bombers by
    terrorist organizations
  • Info Ops role of technology
  • From DVDs and web videos to Al Jazeera
  • Availability of info on government security, CT
  • EW another role of technology
  • Taking instruments from our daily lifethe
    backpack, the car, the shoe, the cell phoneand
    turning them into weapons. Goal damage the
    trust necessary for a successful open society
  • Shifting from small groups to motivated and
    resourceful individuals (Madrid, London)

Elements of the Jihadist threat
  • Praying Honestly for Martyrdom
  • Supporting the Families of Wounded and Imprisoned
  • Collecting Donations
  • Healing the Wounded
  • Praising the Mujahidin and Commemorating their
  • Defending the Mujahidin
  • Exposing the Hypocrites and Defeatists
  • Guiding the Mujahidin
  • Urging People Toward Jihad
  • Distributing books and Brochures
  • Learning the Jurisprudence of Jihad
  • Electronic Jihad
  • Boycotting goods, abandon luxury
  • Raising children to love mujahidin

Think global, act local
  • I and thousands like me are forsaking everything
    for what we believe. Our driving motivation
    doesnt come from tangible commodities that this
    world has to offer. Our religion is Islam
    obedience to the one true God, Allah, and
    following the footsteps of the final prophet and
    messenger Muhammad
  • Your democratically elected governments
    continuously perpetuate atrocities against my
    people all over the world. And your support of
    them makes you directly responsible, just as I am
    directly responsible for protecting and avenging
    my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel
    security, you will be our targets. And until you
    stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and
    torture of my people we will not stop this fight.
    We are at war and I am a soldier.
  • Mohammad Sidique Khan, participant in the July 7,
    2005 suicide bomb attacks in London, in a video
    message released by the British authorities Sept.
    1, 2005.

Radicalization 3 Categories of Academic Theory
  1. Aspects of the Self What influences individuals
    decision to join a terrorist group?
  2. Social Group DynamicsWhat social and group
    dynamics influence individual actions?
  3. Conditions and FacilitatorsWhat local
    circumstances allow terrorist groups to thrive
    and grow? What facilitates radicalization, and
    where? Why do violent ideologies resonate?

Places of Extremism/Radicalization
Places which bring together groups of
like-minded individuals whose shared purpose and
experiences build lifelong trust and a sense of
us, together against the world among its
members. (cf. Marc Sageman, Understanding
Terror Networks) Places where grievances are
converted to compelling ideologies, including
those that emphasize the need to kill others
Potential Places of Extremism/Radicalization
  • Examples include
  • Places of Worship (mosque, church, synagogue)
    special importance because of interpretation
  • Places of Political Ideas and Learning (school,
    madrasa, university) these also have
    interpretation power
  • Places of Shared Purpose and Bonds (places of
    work, community centers, soccer leagues, prisons,
  • Communities, Families, Social Networks
  • The Internet (open access to seekers and
    publishers of info)
  • Unique Places (training camps, secret facilities,
    al Manar, etc.)

Enablers of ideological resonance
Frustration Humiliation Resentment Hopelessness Se
nse of Crisis
Limited opportunities/power to bring about change
without use of violence
Expectations Demands Grievances
  • Local political, economic and social conditions
  • Chaos/capacity (weak/failing states, zones of
    competing governance)
  • Socio-demographics (youth bulge, unemployment,
    lack of integration, etc.)
  • Authoritarian/repressive regimes desire to
    address a power imbalance (AQ/Hizb as symbols of
    resistance - empowering the disenfranchised)
  • Ethnic/Socio-cultural fissures (Tamils, Chechens,
    Kurds, Basques)
  • Pre-existing belief in superiority of race,
    religion, tribe, etc.
  • Holy land geographical issues, historical
    irredentist claims
  • Global issues
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict (incl. as symbol of
    universal Muslim oppression)
  • Perceptions of U.S. relations/bias/imperialism/dou
    ble standards
  • Globalization/Westernization of cultural values
    threatening our way of life

constraints of ideological resonance
  • Socio-Political Constraints
  • Lack of acceptance about the need for violence,
    or sense of crisis
  • Failure to build ideology on pre-existing belief
    structures, cultural values, etc. within a
    particular community
  • Behavior of groups leader seen as too extreme
    (or perhaps not extreme enough) by community
  • Grievances are not widely shared by community
  • Popular support vs. potential to disgust
    potential supporters thru violence
  • Religious Constraints
  • Fringe/overly radical interpretation of religious
    texts (e.g., cults like Aum Shinrikyo) deters
    potential believers/supporters
  • Lack of acceptance of proposed religious
    justification for violence (for example, al Qaida
    claims strategic justification, but do they truly
    have theological permission to kill Muslims?)
  • Violence prevents individual Muslims from
    conducting their own jihad as Quran requires

Radicalization Ideologies
  • Radicalization
  • requires funding
  • requires purpose
  • involves a new or different vision of the future
    (a future that some believe cannot be achieved
    w/out violence)
  • is rooted in information, beliefs, perceptions
    and interpretation (hence the important role of
    churches, schools, other places of potential
  • Emotions are more powerful than intellectual
  • Images are often more powerful than words

Community Radicalization
  • Effective radicalization starts with the young
  • So-called "seekers" of any age are prime
    candidates for becoming radicalized (you know
    what a seeker is you know a seeker, looking for
    something that is not in his or her life
    searching for meaning, purpose, etc.)
  • Family radicalization is more effective than
    focusing on a single individual (bonds of blood)
  • Radicalization of any kind requires local context
    (but not necessarily local hardships) e.g.,
    London vs. Kashmir

Impact on our communities
  • Radicalization and community policing . . .
  • Law enforcement professionals are on the
    frontlines, most able to detect radicalization
    and to intervene
  • Certain communities are at risk of becoming
    engines of radicalization
  • You already know where many of these are
  • Law enforcement is increasingly asked to serve a
    critical intelligence role that is, gathering
    information that may not be useful for a criminal
  • New demands on law enforcement for community
    engagement, cultural understanding, diplomacy,

How we Respond
  • Focus on places of ideological interpretation
  • We must establish a presence inside the places of
    radicalization (institutions of worship,
    learning, shared purpose, etc. as well as the
    Internet) in order to reach the audiences that
    are being radicalized from within.
  • Focus on where youth might be exposed to radical
    ideas(including clubs, youth groups, video
    games, Internet, etc.)
  • Further, we must have the active assistance of
    individuals who are already established as
    credible peers within those institutions . . .
  • Coming at this problem from the outside, where
    our messages and ideas are already discredited,
    does very little.

How we Respond
  • Multiple dimensions required in our CT approach
  • Local law enforcement personnel play an important
    role as the intelligence sensors within
    communities of concern
  • They know where the hotspots are in their city,
    and have some sense of the cultural dimensions of
    certain neighborhoods
  • Identify and target the funding streams
  • Radical charismatic leaders must be identified
    and dealt with (e.g., discrediting their radical
    ideas as unsupported by core values)
  • Interagency and multinational cooperation will be
    critical to our success.

Final thoughts
  • Our ability to combat radicalization process
    requires the ability to
  • Identify certain kinds of information (ideas,
    messages, images)
  • Identify the sources of this information (who is
    seen as a legitimate source of knowledge/interpret
    ation within a particular group or movement?)
  • Understand (and if possible, avoid) actions which
    can be interpreted as justification for radical
  • Understand the global spectrum of interpreters
    and responders, and their role in a radical
    movements trajectory

Final thoughts
  • Information Warfare influencing the street
    perception of an organization is a powerful
    component of an overall counterterrorism strategy
  • Need to discredit the perception of competence
    and operational security of a network
  • Need to undermine the ideological resonance of a
    particular groups message
  • Need to discredit the messengers . . .
  • Proposed religious justification for violence is
  • Overly radical interpretation of key religious
    texts is a betrayal of God
  • Highlight personal agenda of power-hungry leaders