View Full Version : Counter Terrorism (merged thread)

03-23-2009, 09:13 PM
Now a little dated having been published in 2007, 'The Lessons of Policing in Iraq', from the Oxford Journal Of Policing, still at least it is here: http://policing.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/1/1/102

Taken from a special issue on Policing and Terrorism: http://policing.oxfordjournals.org/content/vol1/issue1/

I have only skimmed two articles and enjoyed William Bratton's short piece.


11-13-2009, 04:42 PM
A thoughtful short article from an outsider on the responses to terrorism:http://www.schneier.com/essay-292.html

The opening paragraph:
Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear. The best defences against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: they are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.

Scattered later on:
it's not the target and tactics of the last attack that are important, but the next attack....the security measures that work are largely invisible.....Certainly intelligence and investigation successes have made it harder, but mostly it's because terrorist attacks are actually hard. It's hard to find willing recruits, to co-ordinate plans, and to execute those plans -- and it's easy to make mistakes.

Each time I travel by air and find at UK airports barriers to stop cars getting close to the terminal I just shake my head - what a waste. Yes, it is theatre and an attempt to show the public the state is doing something.


11-13-2009, 04:52 PM
Each time I travel by air and find at UK airports barriers to stop cars getting close to the terminal I just shake my head - what a waste. Yes, it is theatre and an attempt to show the public the state is doing something.

Well said, David. Patraeus had it right, "sometimes the more you try to protect yourself, the less secure you are." I shake my head at all the money we've thrown into different bureaucracies since 9/11.

11-13-2009, 05:06 PM
I rather like this one (from the No.1 posted article).

They do not include expansive new police or spying laws. Our police don't need any new laws to deal with terrorism; rather, they need apolitical funding. These security measures don't make good television, and they don't help, come re-election time. But they work, addressing the reality of security instead of the feeling.

Thank You, Sir

07-04-2012, 02:19 PM
The original article's title was: Lessons of the Counterterror Campaign in the Digital Age (Opinion):http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/04/lessons-of-the-counterterror-campaign-in-the-digital-age-opinion/

The author being:
Philip Mudd served as the FBI’s deputy director for national security and, prior to that, spent most of his career at the CIA. He held various positions and was eventually named the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Mudd is now a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.

His opinion is markedly upbeat:
The lessons of how U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement developed tactics during this long campaign, though, likely will be more enduring. Like international terror groups, emerging threats - organized crime, drug cartels, human trafficking groups, and child pornography rings - have common characteristics. All are led by a central cadre (a leadership network) of criminals who communicate, travel, and manage finances. Increasingly, each of these elements that make up organized networks is trackable through the digital trails that we all leave behind during everyday life, from bank transactions to e-mail and other messaging traffic on the Internet.

I would argue that organized crime and drug cartels have been around for a very long time. They both show remarkable resilience to modern methods, notably in the so called, failing 'drug war'. Let alone the billions in 'dirty money' floating around despite all the "spin". Human trafficking groups and child pornography rings maybe somewhat newer. I assume 'trafficking' is not the same as illegal migration; the later is evidently nowhere near state control.

Even starker IMO when Mudd writes:
Adversaries cannot beat the digital supremacy of America’s national security agencies, if that supremacy supports interdiction...

That is not supremacy, that is a capability that may give an operational edge.

Mudd ends with:
we should consider it as a template for how to look at this new age of global, networked, non-state actors and how similar they are to the adversary that we so effectively crippled after 9/11, using intelligence fusion to devastating effect. The wars of the past should be consigned to the past; the lessons of those wars remain relevant.

Well that really opens up a lot of the debate SWC has had over the years, including asking how effective is this, let alone the political, moral and cost aspects.

07-08-2012, 09:32 AM
From SWJ 'A Review: Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaida’s Past and Future through Captured Records', which contains these lessons:
Dr. Mark Stout of John Hopkins University, discusses the evolution of intelligence assessments of al-Qaida to 2011, and perhaps the most insightful aspects of his remarks are is the identification of hysteria that detracts from the real business of counter-terrorism, which is the blaming of Islam itself and 1.5 billion adherents, thereby allowing al-Qaida to hide within Islam, and not recognize that al-Qaida ideology and actions have been harmful to Muslims and non-Muslims alike....While Islam is relevant in threat analysis, Stout discusses how intelligence analysts fought back these ideas needing a more refined and realistic definition of the threat in a real world in which Muslims play an integral part in assisting in countering al-Qaida.

On that aspect of campaigning, document exploitation which gets little coverage:
Ms. Jessica Huckabey of the Institute for Defense Analysis...she eloquently warns that captured documents are a time capsule and should be contrasted with current events, more importantly Huckabey reminds us that AQ evolves based on failures and pressures.

I am sure others will find stimulation in the variety of articles within.

SWJ article link:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/a-review-ten-years-later-insights-on-al-qaida%E2%80%99s-past-and-future-through-captured-records

The free book, 218 pgs:http://issuu.com/johnshopkinsaap/docs/gov1220_ndu-final-issuu?mode=window&viewMode=doublePage

08-13-2012, 07:03 PM
Alex P. Schmid is the author in Perspectives on Terrorism of this one page rulebook:

1. Try to address the underlying conflict issues exploited by the terrorists and work towards a peaceful solution while not making substantive concessions to the terrorists themselves;
2. Prevent radical individuals and groups from becoming terrorist extremists by confronting them with a mix of 'carrot and stick' –tactics and search for effective counter-motivation measures;
3. Stimulate and encourage defection and conversion of free and imprisoned terrorists and find ways to reduce the support of aggrieved constituencies for terrorist organizations;
4. Deny terrorists access to arms, explosives, false identification documents, safe communication, safe travel and sanctuaries; disrupt and incapacitate their preparations and operations through infiltration, communication intercept, espionage and by limiting their criminal - and other fund-raising capabilities;
5. Reduce low-risk/high-gain opportunities for terrorists to strike by enhancing
communications, energy and transportation-security, by hardening critical infrastructures and potential sites where mass casualties could occur and apply principles of situational crime prevention to the prevention of terrorism;
6. Keep in mind that terrorists seek publicity and exploit the media and the Internet to propagate their cause, glorify their attacks, win recruits, solicit donations, gather intelligence, disseminate terrorist know-how and communicate with their target audiences. Try to devise communication strategies to counter them in each of these areas.
7. Prepare for crisis- and consequence-management for both 'regular' and ‘catastrophic' acts of terrorism in coordinated simulation exercises and educate first responders and the public on how to cope with terrorism.
8. Establish an Early Detection and Early Warning intelligence system against terrorism and other violent crimes on the interface between organized crime and political conflict;
9. Strengthen coordination of efforts against terrorism both within and between states; enhance international police and intelligence cooperation, and offer technical assistance to those countries lacking the know-how and means to upgrade their counter-terrorism instruments.
10. Show solidarity with, and offer support to, victims of terrorism at home and abroad.
11. Maintain the moral high-ground in the struggle with terrorists by defending and strengthening the rule of law, good governance, democracy and social justice and by matching your deeds with your words;
12. Last but not least: counter the ideologies, indoctrination and propaganda of secular and non-secular terrorists and try to get the upper hand in the war of ideas – the battle for the hearts and minds of those terrorists claim to speak and fight for.


08-13-2012, 08:53 PM
Clint Watts aka CWOT (SWC Member) has authored 'Radicalization in the U.S. Beyond al Qaeda: Treating the Disease of the Disconnection', published by FPRI and is a timely addition to this thread:
Completed in December 2011, the report explores the efficacy and future threat of al Qaeda’s ideology in radicalizing Americans but concludes with a broader call for examining the variety of domestic ideologies inspiring violence in the United States. Watts discusses potential trends in future U.S. radicalization and outlines several recommendations for preparing the U.S. to detect and interdict violence from a host of extremist ideologies, of which al Qaeda represents only one.

Caveats aside Clint offers five steps for countering homegrown (US) extremism:
A more appropriate blend of effort and resources for countering homegrown extremism might follow a spectrum of key tasks:

1- Identify and remove extremist content from U.S. and partner nation servers through established legal processes and cooperation with the private sector.
2- Detect online extremist radicalization through electronic surveillance and rapidly share this information with law enforcement and homeland security officials to initiate physical engagement with advocates of extremism.
3- Expand community engagement across all communities for additional detection capability and further means of extremist interdiction.
4- Directly and physically engage those being radicalized. Law enforcement and their local community partners should physically preempt those demonstrating extremist sympathies. This engagement could use a combination of intermediaries to include family, community leaders, law enforcement, social workers, and reformed extremists who are particularly effective in deescalating extremists moving down the path of radicalization.
5- Monitor and interdict those committed to extremism through informants, surveillance and preemptive law enforcement. For some radicalized in the U.S., there is no de-escalating their intent to commit violence. Law enforcement at all levels should continue their proactive policing when direct intervention with extremists is infeasible or insufficient to deter.A timely addition by CWOT


Link to FPRI report:http://www.fpri.org/pubs/2012/201208.watts.radicalization.pdf

08-13-2012, 09:00 PM
Germany has corrupted its far right wing (aka Neonazis) to the degree of ridiculousness. All their organisations appear to be compromised by informants well into the top of the hierarchies.

A recent project to support those who want to leave the far right subculture already appears to take a toll on their numbers.

Other than that, civil society does a lot to remind everyone that the far right is a bunch of loudmouths, and a minority at every occasion. Every far right demonstration is being countered by a larger anti-fascist demonstration usually including dedicated Antifa groups, churches, labour unions, Asta (university student organisations), local mainsteam politicians, greens, leftists and the likes.

08-13-2012, 09:54 PM

I often wonder where the balance is between the actions of the state and non-state participants in CT and counter-radicalisation (CVE in the USA and PE now in the UK, it was PVE). In my reading and listening at conferences, with Spanish and Ulster voices in mind especially; what was the impact of the massive public protests against ETA - after kidnapping and murders?

Nearer to home in Northern Ireland we had the 'Women for Peace' and a short-lived cross-communal protest about violence, way-back in 1976. It was to take a long time for the 'men of violence' to find their operating space was diminishing; a mixture of exhaustion and compromise led to peace with the Good Friday Agreement.

No surprise then that Alex Schmid's last two points resonate with me:
11. Maintain the moral high-ground in the struggle with terrorists by defending and strengthening the rule of law, good governance, democracy and social justice and by matching your deeds with your words;
12. Last but not least: counter the ideologies, indoctrination and propaganda of secular and non-secular terrorists and try to get the upper hand in the war of ideas – the battle for the hearts and minds of those terrorists claim to speak and fight for.

08-13-2012, 10:09 PM
Point 12 is ill-aimed. there's no need to engage millions since the support base for terrorists is usually only in the range of thousands. they're the ones who aren't resolute enough to not give up, who didn't go too far to return to civil society and who are indispensable for the morale and actions of the terrorists.

The RAF in Germany crumbled when its supporter base got disillusioned.

There's an interesting parallel with Mao's teachings about guerilla logistics (unless I mixed something up in my memory).

SWJ Blog
01-24-2013, 08:16 AM
Defining Terrorism: A Strategic Imperative (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/defining-terrorism-a-strategic-imperative)

02-17-2013, 11:59 AM
Search "Mobley" gave 0 replies and I 'd like to suggest his book.

Terrorism and Counterintelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection
Blake W. Mobley

August, 2012.

Protecting information, identifying undercover agents, and operating clandestinely—efforts known as counterintelligence—are the primary objectives of terrorist groups evading detection by intelligence and law enforcement officials. Some strategies work well, some fail, and those tasked with tracking these groups are deeply invested in the difference.

Discussing the challenges terrorist groups face as they multiply and plot international attacks, while at the same time providing a framework for decoding the strengths and weaknesses of their counterintelligence, Blake W. Mobley provides an indispensable text for the intelligence, military, homeland security, and law enforcement fields. He outlines concrete steps for improving the monitoring, disruption, and elimination of terrorist cells, primarily by exploiting their mistakes in counterintelligence.

A key component of Mobley’s approach is to identify and keep close watch on areas that often exhibit weakness. While some counterintelligence pathologies occur more frequently among certain terrorist groups, destructive bureaucratic tendencies, such as mistrust and paranoia, pervade all organizations. Through detailed case studies, Mobley shows how to recognize and capitalize on these shortcomings within a group’s organizational structure, popular support, and controlled territory, and he describes the tradeoffs terrorist leaders make to maintain cohesion and power. He ultimately shows that no group can achieve perfect secrecy while functioning effectively and that every adaptation or new advantage supposedly attained by these groups also produces new vulnerabilities.


http://books.google.ee/books?id=TloqstEL_qkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Terrorism+and+Counterintelligence:+How+Terroris t+Groups+Elude+Detection&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tMAgUYuPCqqA4gSYwYCADw&redir_esc=y

Dr. Mobley's CV

Dr. Mobley is the co-founder of Threat Pattern, LLC, a firm that collects and analyzes “big data” and intelligence from over 100 million online sources to support intelligence, counterintelligence, due diligence, public relations, and security operations for corporate and government clients. He previously worked at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a counterintelligence analyst, serving tours in the Middle East and Langley, VA. At the CIA he served as a targeter, supporting clandestine operations and producing analytic reports for senior U.S. policymakers, including two Presidents and their cabinets, the National Security Council, and senior intelligence and military officials. After the CIA, he worked at the RAND Corporation as a political scientist, where he studied open source intelligence strategies and the counterintelligence methods and vulnerabilities of governments, corporations, organized crime groups, illicit trafficking groups, and large street gangs.
Dr. Mobley continues to provide training and analytic support to the U.S. Army Special Forces and various police department gang units. He previously worked with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and the Center for Tactical Counter Terrorism on projects for the New York City Police Department. He is the author of Terrorism and Counterintelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection (Columbia University Press, 2012), which develops and tests a methodology for assessing the counterintelligence strengths and weaknesses of violent, clandestine groups. Dr. Mobley received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Georgetown University, M.P.P. from Harvard University, and B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University.


02-17-2013, 12:23 PM

Good catch. Oddly the book has only one review on Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/Terrorism-Counterintelligence-Terrorist-Detection-Irregular/product-reviews/0231158769/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

SWJ Blog
05-21-2013, 08:11 AM
Is the War on Terrorism Over? Long Live Unconventional Warfare (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/is-the-war-on-terrorism-over-long-live-unconventional-warfare)

07-03-2013, 09:34 PM
An intriguing, short analysis using the START Global Terrorism Database (GTD):
First, the tremendous impact of 9/11 encourages us to think about terrorism as being mostly about dissatisfied individuals from one country attacking innocent civilians from another country. Based on the data in the GTD we found that more than 90% of the 17,000 attacks carried out by 52 foreign terrorist groups were actually domestic attacks.

Second...it is easy to lose sight of the fact that a large number of terrorist attacks involve fairly rational political disputes over territory.

Third...we find that more than half of all terrorist attacks since 1970 involved no fatalities.

Fourth...the vast majority of terrorist attacks rely on unsophisticated, readily accessible weapons.

And finally, the advance planning, originality and destructiveness of 9/11 contributed to the notion that terrorist groups are infallible.


07-08-2015, 09:21 PM
Not a great shock here I would venture, but this academic article makes interesting reading - even if ISIS comes to dominate:http://nationalinterest.org/feature/frightening-thought-when-terrorism-works-13279

07-09-2015, 09:42 PM
Thanks to a "lurker" for the pointer to this open access article in a journal I rarely see, 'International Organisation' by Virginia Page Fortna:http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=9702102&jid=INO&volumeId=-1&issueId=-1&aid=9702101&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0020818315000089#cjotab_

The Abstract states:
How effective is terrorism? This question has generated lively scholarly debate and is of obvious importance to policy-makers. However, most existing studies of terrorism are not well equipped to answer this question because they lack an appropriate comparison. This article compares the outcomes of civil wars to assess whether rebel groups that use terrorism fare better than those who eschew this tactic. I evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of terrorism relative to other tactics used in civil war. Because terrorism is not a tactic employed at random, I first briefly explore empirically which groups use terrorism. Controlling for factors that may affect both the use of terrorism and war outcomes, I find that although civil wars involving terrorism last longer than other wars, terrorist rebel groups are generally less likely to achieve their larger political objectives than are nonterrorist groups. Terrorism may be less ineffective against democracies, but even in this context, terrorists do not win

07-13-2015, 01:35 PM
There has been criticism that little has been learnt about terrorism from those who study it. This a thread refers (there maybe others):http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=18024

Max Abrahams, an Asst. Professor @ NE University, has been interviewed and his responses include this thread's subject. Here is a taster:
Q: So, if terrorism does not work, why do certain groups practice it?

A:In a recent study in International Organization, Phil Potter and I propose and test a new theory that can accurately predict why certain groups use terrorism (https://www.academia.edu/5365151/Explaining_Terrorism_Leadership_Deficits_and_Milit ant_Group_Tactics_International_Organization_March _2015_with_Phil_Potter_), while others do not. It turns out that only some groups tend to engage in terrorism by attacking civilians – groups suffering from leadership deficits in which lower level members are calling the shots. Leadership deficits promote terrorism by empowering lower level members of the organization, who have stronger incentives to harm civilians.Link:http://www.e-ir.info/2015/07/12/interview-max-abrahms/#.VaKbWIfGUHl.twitter

The article cited is available free on:https://www.academia.edu/5365151/Explaining_Terrorism_Leadership_Deficits_and_Milit ant_Group_Tactics_International_Organization_March _2015_with_Phil_Potter_

08-19-2015, 08:34 PM
An excellent overview by Jason Burke, a journalist and author with The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/19/isis-al-qaida-myths-terrorism-war-mistakes-9-11?

The full title:
There is no silver bullet': Isis, al-Qaida and the myths of terrorism (Sub-title)The west’s response to 9/11 was the catastrophic ‘war on terror’. Have we learned from our mistakes with al-Qaida, or is history repeating itself with Isis?

He ends with:
To be afraid of terrorism is normal; to be concerned is natural. But it is better to be so in measure and in reason, not in panicked ignorance, and thus win one immediate and important victory.The author does not provide what to do now.

SWJ Blog
08-26-2015, 09:44 PM
Does Security Assistance Reduce Terrorism? (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/does-security-assistance-reduce-terrorism)

SWJ Blog
09-15-2015, 02:53 PM
Global War on Terrorism: How Does the United States Military Counter and Combat the Worldwide Spread of Islamic Extremism? (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/global-war-on-terrorism-how-does-the-united-states-military-counter-and-combat-the-worldwid)

SWJ Blog
11-04-2015, 10:22 AM
Ninth Annual Terrorism Conference: The War in Syria, Islamic State and the Changing Landscape of Asymmetric Threats (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/ninth-annual-terrorism-conference-the-war-in-syria-islamic-state-and-the-changing-landscape-of-)

SWJ Blog
11-15-2015, 04:43 PM
5 Takeaways From the Paris Attacks and the Long War Against Terrorism (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/5-takeaways-from-the-paris-attacks-and-the-long-war-against-terrorism)

11-20-2015, 10:40 PM
A short commentary by Professor George Kassimeris, a SME on terrorism, and the sub-title is:
Students and politicians may struggle to accept this – especially in the wake of the attacks in Paris – but the best we can do is contain a phenomenon that is as old as the hills,The author's bio:http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/our-schools-and-institutes/faculty-of-social-sciences/school-of-social-historical-and-political-studies/staff-contact-list/dr-george-kassimeris/

He compares the 'old' and 'new' terrorism, an excerpt:
In that period terrorists wanted – to use the often-cited observation by Brian Jenkins, director of the security and subnational conflict programme of the RAND Corporation – “a lot of people watching and a lot of people listening and not a lot of people dead”. Now things are different. What we have now is a series of loose, mutually reinforcing and quite separate international networks whose followers combine medieval religious beliefs with modern weaponry and a level of fanaticism that expresses itself primarily in suicide bombings and a willingness to use indiscriminate violence on large scale.He ends with:
Whether one supports politically motivated violence or not as a tactic, it is important to place the phenomenon in a clear context in order to attempt to understand the nature of the threat. Not to eradicate it, because that is impossible, but to contain it.The article itself:http://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/news-and-events/latest-news/2015/november-2015/terrorism-and-political-violence.php

Others have advocated containment as the option, alongside with work ast home.

The Forum has ninety threads with terrorism in the title, none appeared on a review to suit this commentary.

SWJ Blog
11-21-2015, 10:17 PM
2015 Global Terrorism Index (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2015-global-terrorism-index)

SWJ Blog
12-28-2015, 09:43 PM
New Year’s Resolutions on Terrorism: Panic, Politics, and the Prospects for Honesty in 2016 (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/new-year%E2%80%99s-resolutions-on-terrorism-panic-politics-and-the-prospects-for-honesty-in-2016)

SWJ Blog
12-28-2015, 10:11 PM
Report: Constructions of Terrorism Conference (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/report-constructions-of-terrorism-conference)

12-28-2015, 10:53 PM
Earlier this year I attended a British Academy conference on this theme and now a book has been published.

There's also two short blog articles for free:
1) Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, and Paris by Richard English, which has some startling passages, here is a taster:
There is the ironic echo between – say – al-Qaida and their post-9/11 US-led enemies, that both sides have displayed greater technical and tactical sophistication than they have political wisdom or strategic understanding.

And there is the related irony that humanity’s most sustained ever attempt to rid the world of terrorism – the post-9/11 War on Terror – inaugurated a period within which the number of terrorist attacks and the number of terrorist-generated fatalities actually increased – most strikingly in those very arenas in which the War on Terror had been most concentratedly focused.

2) 'Terrorism does not destroy, provided we restrain our excusable instinct to dive into the false security of a police state' by Professor Connor Gearty. He ends with a reminder:
For all its horrors, terrorism of this sort remains ‘the weapon of the weak’, occasional typhoons of horror that frighten, shock, destabilise, stimulate increases in police power for sure, but ultimately do not destroy – as long as we keep our heads and restrain our excusable instinct to dive into the false security of a police state.

Back to the book:
'Illusions of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism', edited by Professor Richard English, Director of the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews.
Terrorism and counter-terrorism represent enduringly and globally important phenomena, and the interlinking relationship between terrorism and counter-terrorism continues to influence world politics. This book brings together leading scholars in these fields to analyse this connection.

SWJ Blog
01-08-2016, 09:41 AM
America May Have Unlocked a Key to Fighting Terrorism — And it Doesn’t Involve Drones (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/america-may-have-unlocked-a-key-to-fighting-terrorism-%E2%80%94-and-it-doesn%E2%80%99t-involve-drones)

SWJ Blog
01-11-2016, 08:23 AM
Time for a Comprehensive Strategy Against Islamic Terrorism in 2016 (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/time-for-a-comprehensive-strategy-against-islamic-terrorism-in-2016)

SWJ Blog
01-12-2016, 06:11 PM
Obama Prefers Special Ops to Combat Forces in the War on Terrorism. It's Not Working. (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/obama-prefers-special-ops-to-combat-forces-in-the-war-on-terrorism-its-not-working)

01-14-2016, 08:03 AM
A wise academic, Audrey Kurth Cronin in a Q&A format reviews five influential books and in summary:
Terrorism sets out to make governments overreact. Our job is to control our rage and work instead to bring about about its swift—and ultimately inevitable—demise.Link:http://fivebooks.com/interview/audrey-kurth-cronin-on-terrorism/

SWJ Blog
02-26-2016, 12:11 PM
Video: The Changing Nature of Terrorism and Counterterrorism (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/video-the-changing-nature-of-terrorism-and-counterterrorism)

SWJ Blog
06-21-2016, 02:34 PM
Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, Volume 9, Issue 6 (June 2016), Now Posted (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/combating-terrorism-center-sentinel-volume-9-issue-6-june-2016-now-posted)

06-25-2016, 04:22 PM
Counter terrorism / counterterrorism (CT) appears in a large number of threads and arenas. Some threads refer to individual nations or regions, for examples France and Europe respectively.

This thread's theme is CT in the widest sense after twenty two threads were merged, most of them recent 2015-2016. There are many threads on terrorism which defy merging.

There is an old thread A Counter Terrorism reading list (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=9727&highlight=terrorism) which has not been updated since 2011 and is now closed.

09-09-2016, 09:23 PM
Hat tip to CTC's Sentinel for a long article by Brian Jenkins, who asks this painful question. Time for a discussion here - over to you.

The Abstract:
Measuring progress in irregular warfare without frontlines is always difficult. The various dimensions and multiple fronts of the United States’ ongoing campaign against terrorists make it an exceptional challenge. And much has changed since that campaign began 15 years ago. There has not been another 9/11-scale event. Although they attract followers, neither al-Qa`ida nor its progeny has become a mass movement. The constellation of groups claiming allegiance to them is far from an effective alliance, and the Islamic State has been contained. The leaders of al-Qa`ida depend heavily on exhortation to get others to fight, and the turnout is thin. On the other side of the ledger, the targeted groups have survived, their determination seems undiminished, and their ideology remains powerful. They are deeply embedded in a number of fragile, divided, conflict-ridden states. Persistent foes, they are able to operate underground and capable of comebacks if pressure on them subsides. The conflict will go on.Link:https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/fifteen-years-on-where-are-we-in-the-war-on-terror

Then there's Daniel Byman:http://www.vox.com/2016/9/9/12839824/9-11-anniversary-terrorist-attack-safer-today

He ends with:
Despite not having a catastrophic attack on US since 9/11, terrorism remains an emotive issue. Its dangers should not be ignored, but too often they are played up or misconstrued, contributing to bad policies and helping the terrorists generate more fear.

09-14-2016, 11:45 AM
A stinging overview of where the USA principally finds itself from Politico magazine's editor, Michael Hirsh and a "taster":
We can’t, of course, unmake these historic mistakes. So, do we give up, or figure a new way out? Here we are, engaged in a war without end, with a new principal enemy, ISIS, and a slew of Al Qaeda affiliates playing whack-a-mole with our drone forces on a global battlefield.

09-14-2016, 11:58 AM
A really useful review from 'The Atlantic' magazine. The abstract says:
Prior to September 11, 2001, few Americans registered (http://www.gallup.com/poll/187655/americans-name-terrorism-no-problem.aspx) serious concern about terrorism in the United States. The attacks of 15 years ago were, and remain, the deadliest terrorist attacks in history. And yet terrorism was a deadly phenomenon around the world for decades before those attacks, and was the subject of study among a small community of researchers as early as the 1960s. What’s truly different about the terrorism of the post-9/11 era, and what’s been consistent over time? And why does the problem still seem so difficult to manage? Below, three of the scholars who helped define the modern field of terrorism research reflect on what’s been learned, what’s been forgotten, and what still isn’t known about why terrorists attack.The trio are: Bruce Hoffman, Martha Crenshaw and Brain Jenkins.

10-04-2016, 04:12 PM
A fascinating 66 minute talk by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's Chief of Staff, on this fraught question and ranges around the world. Notably talking on Colombia and Northern Ireland. The event was before the referendum in Colombia:http://www.britac.ac.uk/video/talking-terrorists

Jonathan Powell discussed his ten years as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, from 1997 – 2007 and his role as chief negotiator on the Northern Ireland peace process. Since then he has set up Inter-Mediate, a charity that promotes conflict resolution and reconciliation around the world. He will highlight the challenges of talking to terrorists around the world, most recently in Colombia.His Wiki bio reminded me Powell had been a diplomat:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Powell_(Labour_adviser)

02-07-2017, 09:57 PM
A timely commentary by a British academic on the dangers in linking every violent act by a mentally ill person to being a terrorist attack. A key phrase:
Yet you are twenty times more likely to die by drowning in your bathtub than in a terrorist act, and a thousand times more likely to die in a road accident. So why, given these statistics, is terrorism so effective? The core reason is that its shocking randomness makes us feel that we can’t do much to protect ourselves – in other words, we feel out of control.
(Later) Terrorism is essentially a tool of mass psychological manipulation – less of the terrorists themselves than of us, the population of ordinary people who are to be terrorized.Link (beware it may be behind a pay wall):http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/07/fail-distinguish-mentally-terrorists-do-isils-work/

There is a separate thread on Mental Health & Terrorism, but the quote is an introduction to a three linked articles by David Wells, a former Australian-UK SIGINT worker, in the Australian Lowy Institute's e-briefing and now on his own website.

He tries to answer a "wicked" problem and I have adapted his words: how can government(s) maintain and increase emotional resilience against the fear of future terrorist activity, regardless of whether this activity occurred.

The context is Australian, but his outlook is global.

Part One:https://counterterrorismmatters.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/taking-the-terror-out-of-terrorism-part-1/

Part Two considers communication strategies:https://counterterrorismmatters.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/taking-the-terror-out-of-terrorism-part-2/

Part Three:https://counterterrorismmatters.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/taking-the-terror-out-of-terrorism-part-2/

08-31-2017, 12:46 PM
A sombre analysis by a Canadian analyst via ICCT based in Holland, after recent attacks.

A key passage:
Perhaps most importantly, the advent of cars as weapons of destruction may mean we are moving into an era of all-but-unstoppable acts of terrorism. When the commonplace becomes the tool of choice security and law enforcement agencies lose an important advantage: the ability to monitor the acquisition of guns or the manufacture of explosives.

(Later) We may in the end need to accept a certain background level of successful terrorist attacks, much like we do for other serious crimes like murder and violent assault. This is not an admission of failure nor an act of surrender: it is an acknowledgement that our security agencies, which are very professional and capable and which stop the vast majority of planned attacks, are not perfect and should not be subjected to an unreasonable standard.Link:https://icct.nl/publication/an-era-of-near-unstoppable-terrorism/

A BBC overview of recent attacks:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-40000952

I do wonder if the public, let alone politicians can resist the calls for "better security" and accept a level of such attacks.

09-05-2017, 06:24 PM
The BBC has broadcast a half hour documentary in London, a regional programmme oddly; it is not on YouTube, but will appear on BBC World News see:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/n3ct1kws

The reporter is Raffaello Pantucci, of RUSI and he has written a summary on his website. It ends with, lightly edited, this and IMHO applies beyond the UK:
Clearly radical material disseminated online will fan the flames of ideas, and mean that groups like Isil will be able to maintain their notoriety and draw people to themselves. But it is the online manipulation that is turning these long-distance online relationships into terrorist attacks, and individuals like Junaid are able to manipulate people into launching attacks that are difficult to prevent in western capitals.

And while government can spend more money on staff and surveillance, when the style of attack is so individual, basic and diffuse, it becomes very difficult to maintain complete control.

09-07-2017, 09:15 PM
Brain Jenkins @ RAND is always sensible and this short article reviews the current furore, 'Vehicular Terrorism: Weighting the Benefits and Worth, of Prevention.

A "taster":
This latest in a string of such attacks has added urgency to discussions of what can be done to prevent terrorists from using vehicles as weapons. In the lexicon of the security world, these ideas come under the heading of “hostile vehicle mitigation measures,” and they include a broad range of possibilities. Mitigation, not prevention, is the operative word here—cities are filled with pedestrians and vehicles, in some cases, separated by mere inches. Many of the measures would be disruptive and costly and could easily be circumvented, which leads to an uncomfortable question: Do they represent a good investment?


11-14-2017, 10:31 AM
Four other threads in this arena have been merged in after a review; adding nearly 30k views.

11-21-2017, 12:16 PM
From an Australian think tank and their explanation:
This is the fifth edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). The report provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the last 17 years in covering the period from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2016. The GTI is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Data for the GTD is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START); a Department of Homeland Security Centre of Excellence led by the University of Maryland. The GTD is considered to be the most comprehensive global dataset on terrorist activity and has now codified over 170,000 terrorist incidentsIt is a large report, so take what you need.

11-26-2017, 04:29 PM
Spotted by a "lurker" an article in NATO Review by an Irish Defence Forces author and a new abbreviation to learn:
Counter Marauding Terrorist Attack (C-MTA)

01-27-2018, 09:30 PM
Sentinel, CTC @ West Point's journal has several articles, but this one on the Spanish plotters in is a "must read", partly due to its depth and pointer to what is coming.

The Abstract:
In the space of nine hours in August 2017, a terrorist cell armed with vehicles and knives launched two attacks on the city of Barcelona and the town of Cambrils, in Catalonia, Spain, killing 16 in the worst terrorist atrocity in Spain since the 2004 Madrid train bombings. New information obtained by the authors from judicial documents and interviews with investigators make clear the attacks could have been much worse. The 10-man cell, which included four sets of brothers all indoctrinated by an Islamic State-supporting cleric in the Catalonian town of Ripoll, initially planned to carry out ambitious vehicle bomb attacks in Barcelona and possibly Paris using TATP, but changed and accelerated their plans after they accidentally blew up their bomb factory. The Islamic State claimed the attackers were “soldiers of the caliphate,” but while newly disclosed information shows the network behind the Paris attacks targeted Barcelona for an attack in 2015, it is still unclear whether the group had any direct role in the August 2017 attacks.Link:https://ctc.usma.edu/spaniards-going-suffer-inside-story-august-2017-attacks-barcelona-cambrils/

Looking for a shorter briefing? Try this:http://thesoufancenter.org/tsc-intelbrief-lingering-threat/

02-07-2018, 09:12 PM
A short article by Ali Soufan in a forthcoming debate via the Cato Institute. A few lines:
To defeat the terrorists, I maintain we must first grasp, in detail, their worldview, their motivations, and their ideology....we must focus on degrading the terrorists’ most valuable asset:their extremist ideology...How can we push vulnerable young people off the treadmill of radicalization before it carries them into the jihadi echo chamber?

02-13-2018, 05:07 PM
A short commentary by John Raine, ex-UK diplomat now @ IISS; which is painful in places:
The territorial defeat of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Syria and Iraq marks a turning point in the international effort against terrorism. The long war against terrorism enters a new, but probably not its final, phase (https://www.iiss.org/en/iiss%20voices/blogsections/iiss-voices-2018-2623/january-c361/terrorism-and-the-new-disorder-61cf). The threat is mutating and diversifying. The Caliphate has dispersed but a global network of terrorists remains operational, including in European cities. Apparently isolated Individuals are acting on their own initiative, deriving inspiration and guidance from online. And a new potential threat is emerging from armed Shia groups who are enjoying a strategic momentum in the Middle East that could carry them into direct conflict with Israel, the Gulf states and the West. Terrorism has been and remains a part of their repertoire.
This reshaping of the terrorist threat is happening at a time when the international order is volatile. Collective political and security structures are under stress. The Gulf Cooperation Council, NATO and the European Union are all challenged by internal divisions and external threats. In addition, established powers, especially the United States, are recalibrating their global engagement while new powers (Russia and Turkey) are asserting themselves in counter-terrorism theatres such as the Middle East and Central Asia. Finding the common legal, political and cultural ground necessary for effective international coalitions is getting harder.
In this apparent disorder, how will the new terrorist challenges be met? What are the likely strategies of existing and emerging terrorist groups? What new forms of terrorism might emerge, where and with what targets? What changes will have to be made in national and international responses? And how will the international community deny terrorists influence over cyber domains? What strategies, compromises and coalitions will this require?Link:https://www.iiss.org/en/events/events-s-calendar/terrorism-disorder-c0ee

Link to underlined link, which is a longer explanation:https://www.iiss.org/en/iiss%20voices/blogsections/iiss-voices-2018-2623/january-c361/terrorism-and-the-new-disorder-61cf

Bill Moore
02-14-2018, 06:52 AM
A short commentary by John Raine, ex-UK diplomat now @ IISS; which is painful in places:Link:https://www.iiss.org/en/events/events-s-calendar/terrorism-disorder-c0ee

Link to underlined link, which is a longer explanation:https://www.iiss.org/en/iiss%20voices/blogsections/iiss-voices-2018-2623/january-c361/terrorism-and-the-new-disorder-61cf


This is an important think piece in my view, the title "Terrorism and the New Disorder" is appropriate. As noted in numerous SWJ threads and other forums the international order is increasingly under stress by a number of actors and other factors, resulting increasingly in disorder.

The author correctly points out that the next wave of terrorism is brewing
at a time when the international order is volatile, and collective political and security structures are under stress. Thus finding the necessary
common legal, political and cultural ground necessary for effective international coalitions is getting harder.

A couple of other thoughts from the author I found helpful in shedding light on our collective ongoing challenge.

First, it appears state sponsored terrorism is making a come back, and unlike the Iranian proxies in the late 70s/early 80s, this breed of terrorists is battle hardened and very well trained. I doubt Iran will be the only sponsor, as noted by the Russians reportedly providing support to the Taliban as a sign of things to come in a world where state actors increasingly compete with one another.

Second, regarding the foreign fighter who returned home and others who may seek to fight, the author points out that terrorists are less united by structure than my meme. Add the internet to this equation and you a virus of the mind that will continue to spread globally. The West seeks to destroy terrorist organizations, because it comes the closest to their preferred way of war, but rushing to assign a group label to terrorists can be misleading.

07-26-2018, 08:43 AM
John Raine, IISS, has a new commentary; which opens with:
Cross-border terrorism shows no signs of abating, and the changing nature of the threat calls for new approaches. But what could hinder international cooperation? A year after the Westminster attack in London, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has been dislodged from the majority of the territory it controlled. But the threat posed by ISIS and other groups across Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia persists. International cooperation has been the key to successes in countering terrorism, both recently and over the last 20 years, but as collective security comes under threat and terrorism morphs yet again, what should the new priorities be?
Link:https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2018/07/international-counter-terrorism-priorities? (https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2018/07/international-counter-terrorism-priorities?_cldee=ZGF2aWRiZnBvQGJsdWV5b25kZXIuY28u dWs%3d&recipientid=contact-06dd4cad6980de11b23000237dde6e5c-136a790865914c128bd6d147e8aa182a&esid=20806c2d-518f-e811-80d8-005056be3f90&urlid=4)

01-11-2019, 02:47 PM
A commentary with several links on this vexed issue by a UK-based author.

03-03-2019, 08:35 PM
A short essay in Lawfare and the Editor's preamble:
Terrorist groups often draw on ethnic or religious brethren in other countries. These communities raise money, provide arms, offer volunteers, lobby host governments and otherwise try to advance the terrorist cause. James Piazza of The Pennsylvania State University goes deep on diasporas. He identifies the ways in which they make a terrorism problem worse and why fighting terrorism requires countering the influence of militant diasporas.

03-14-2019, 07:52 PM
A short commentary by RUSI's Raffaello Pantucci and Mark Rowley, ex-UK top CT police officer. They open with:
Daesh, Al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organisations may appear to be in current retreat. But rather than being eradicated, they have scattered. The violent extremism they have spawned has not entirely disappeared and understanding how it might evolve is going to be a central preoccupation for security planners.

They end with:
This model of global Islamist terrorism with a cult-like ideology scattering and fostering independent mini-caliphates to grow will need constant effort to be effectively managed. The danger is that, just as some key Western governments are retreating from internationalism, new terrorist footholds will establish themselves, strengthen themselves and shock us. The surprise leaves us prone to overreaction that only exacerbates the problem. To counter terrorist threats, we need to not only fight them on the ground, but appreciate the reason why they have developed in the first place and calibrate our response appropriately. Only then will we be able to manage them effectively and guarantee our security.

04-29-2019, 01:29 PM
Catching up I found this article by Scott Atran, sub-titled:
The atrocities in Sri Lanka are part of a spiral of violence that poses profound questions for liberal societies

The spread of this transnational terrorism, whether Islamist revivalism or resurgent ethno-nationalism, is fragmenting the social and political consensus globally. That is precisely its aim: to create the void that will usher in a new world, with no room for innocents on the other side, and no “gr (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/15/terrorists-isis)ey (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/15/terrorists-isis)zone (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/15/terrorists-isis)” in between.

Then today Jason Burke asks:
Are there lessons we can learn from last week’s atrocities in Sri Lanka?

He has this key passage on being radicalised:
Crucially, someone vulnerable to radicalisation at one moment in their life may be much less so just months later. A key element in the explanations of former terrorists for their own actions – as well as in accounts given by Nazi mass killers and others – is that their acts are necessary to head off a catastrophic outcome for their community, that they are an obligation for any rational individual. Combine this with the total dehumanisation of the victims – another product of groupthink, separation and propaganda – and you are already a long way to mass murder, whether in a death camp, through an artificial famine, by a mob armed with knives and axes, or a multiple suicide bombing.

Both have a global outlook, so will be copied to the general CT thread.