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Thread: Hydras, Networks and Diseases

  1. #1
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Fort Leavenworth, KS

    Default Hydras, Networks and Diseases

    There is a great discussion on the Global Guerilla Blog ref. Terrorist Networks by J. Robb.

    We are seeing something similiar on the local level. The Mosul IA and partner CF unit are having some great successes here lately. As a side, I think the two have finally come to an understanding on each other's information collection and analysis strengths and weaknesses and are complimenting each other better. There has been so much success in exploitation lately that it has caused me to wonder how you'd go about defining a decisive point in terms of transitioning some efforts from security to stability? Is it just a matter of a decrease in AIF activity (you might be missing something if this is the measuring stick)? Is it total numbers of cells broken up, materiel seized, AIF killed? Is it an increase in local economics and civilian cooperation? Its subjective, but I think its important because changing perception may be critical to bringing stability through building local capacity.

    We discussed this with our IA counterparts and used the hydra (for Marc -its interesting that although they are not real familiar with Greek mythos - they do know what a hydra is - maybe from other stories/myths). I picked the hydra because I was trying to find a model that offered regeneration for the AIF, could be discussed in more visual/simple terms then say web networks or diseases, and could be portrayed as "killable".

    The question is how much of the network (and its cells / hubs) do you have to neutralize or destroy in order to make the whole thing null? After that I think the question is how to establish conditions so it does not come back (as much as possible). The former seems like one of assessment through understanding, the latter one of transitioning to a security and stability plan that has elements of IO etc. I'd hate for us to become what has been called a "victim our successes" and all we did was create a respite through which the hydra regenerated without our knowledge. I don't think we want to get into a cycle of attrition where ISF/CF winds up treating recurring symptoms i.e.: AIF regenerates through being able to use the same IO because we were unable to bring about the types of changes where many of the arguments for active or passive support are dried up - jobs, basic services, opportunity.

    Any thoughts you guys have would be great.
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 02-19-2007 at 08:18 AM.

  2. #2
    Council Member CPT Holzbach's Avatar
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    Oct 2005


    The question is how much of the network (and its cells / hubs) do you have to neutralize or destroy in order to make the whole thing null?
    The former seems like one of assessment through understanding
    I agree, I think we're at a point now where the only way we can know if the network has become null is if it becomes null. I would say that good old fashion HUMINT is the most important key. Identify who the important nodes are (high impact, hard to replace) and go after them. If you know who they are, and you can get them, then you can be confident that you're having an impact. But this takes lots of ground work amongst the people, slowly mapping it out.

    After that I think the question is how to establish conditions so it does not come back (as much as possible).
    I like the idea of the alternate narrative. I just have no idea what it would look like, or who's gonna come up with it.

    These sorts of networks seem to be vulnerable to infiltration, a la Donnie Brasco (FBI agent Joe Pistone who infiltrated and brought down the Bonanno mafia family). I dont know what sort of vetting procedures they have. I also dont know who would have the balls of titanium (or a convincing alibi) to even attempt that sort of work. I think if both HUMINT and SIGINT could be leveraged to sound like the intel came from an informer/infiltrator/snitch, the distrust it could sow would be highly contagious and corrosive. The distrust within the Bonanno family and between them and the other families was more damaging than the testimony Joe Pistone provided in court. This would force networks to shrink and become more and more exclusive, which would make them harder to take out, but also less effective as they approach the "lone-wolf" stage.
    "The Infantry’s primary role is close combat, which may occur in any type of mission, in any theater, or environment. Characterized by extreme violence and physiological shock, close combat is callous and unforgiving. Its dimensions are measured in minutes and meters, and its consequences are final." - Paragraph 1-1, FM 3-21.8: Infantry Rifle PLT and SQD.

    - M.A. Holzbach

  3. #3
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    Ottawa, Canada


    Hi Rob,

    Interesting and very gratifying to hear! BTW, the "hydra" also shows up in the old Sumerian (southern Iraq from Babylon south) mythography as the dragon "Tiamat". Interestingly enough, in the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Creation epic, Tiamat is "killed" by Marduk (the God of Babylon) and her body is used to create / stablize the world. In effect, "killing the hydra" is a metaphor for the establishment of stability, law and order. I don't know if that particular story ended up in local Islamic myth or not - it would be interesting to find out.

    On neutralizing the cells / nodes to destroy the network, that is a very interesting question. Since, from the sounds of it, most of them are based on kinship ties, it may be difficult to actually "destroy" them or plant infiltrators; at least in the ones that are "local" (the AIQ ones are another matter entirely). One metrics, I would actually use something along the lines of the consumer price index coupled with availability measures.

    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University

  4. #4
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Belly of the beast


    I did a cursory search for a book about an undercover agent that infiltrated the biker gangs in the 70's. I remember a section of the book where the author discusses how to make the gangs go away. He said they would either be superseded by a more onerous set of gangs (suggesting mafias or tongs). The author if I remember right suggested that the only way to make the gangs go away was make them decide it wasn't such a good idea. Warfare, inability to make a profit, or whatever (superior violence?) could be used to persuade but whatever the tool it had to have meaning to the bikers more than it did the initiators (law enforcement). It seems on a larger scale the insurgent populations must be similar as they fight for a variety of reasons. We attempt to win the hearts and minds on our terms when we should be promoting the change according to their goals and issues. Thereby creating something good out of the embodiment of evil rather than hacking away at the heads only to have them grow back. Something like that anyways.
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  5. #5
    Council Member
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    Mar 2007


    I've been reading a bit about some of the newer trends in Jihadi organisational theories and I've been wondering how we would fight the new, improved Hydra with multiple heads but no body.

    Before his arrest, Al-Suri was talking up his concepts of training and organisation which to my mind seem to consist of decentralising the organisation to the extent where a group of four or five buddies with a grudge can decide to get medieval on our asses, log onto and download the Encyclopedia of Jihad and get to studying nasty things in the privacy and comfort of Ahmad's living room in London.

    Assuming they correctly assimilate the material and have a few practice runs, all without having any formal linkage to AQ or AQ-related personalities, do people here think that this new type of home-school jihadi is a threat? I mean how much can you learn by reading a book and doing some self-taught FTXs?

    I can see how IF this sort of training was effective, that a stand-alone cell or even a misguided, but motivated lone-wolf could pose a dire security threat if they existed in a western country with a non-permissive security environment.

    There is no organisation to infiltrate, very little SIGINT to work with and the types of websites offering this sort of material are prolific and easily accessible to anyone who can read arabic script. I personally consider these types of "cells" to be a security nightmare, and I would be interested in the Council's take on how one would go about shutting them down and wiping them out.


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