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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #61
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Lessons for Countering Al-Qa'ida

    THis is the title for an Adelphi Paper (No.394), published by the London based IISS, Ending Terrorism: Lessons for defeating AQ by Audrey Kurth Cronin, now a few weeks ago, but only reached me a week ago. A fascinating read and recommended.

    From their website: Like all other terrorist movements, al-Qaeda will end. While it has traits that exploit and reflect the current international context, it is not utterly without precedent: some aspects of al-Qaeda are unusual, but many are not. Terrorist groups end according to recognisable patterns that have persisted for centuries, and they reflect, among other factors, the counter-terrorist policies taken against them. It makes sense to formulate those policies with a specific image of an end in mind. Understanding how terrorism ends is the best way to avoid being manipulated by the tactic. There is vast historical experience with the decline and ending of terrorist campaigns, yet few policymakers are familiar with it. This paper first explains five typical strategies of terrorism and why Western thinkers fail to grasp them. It then describes historical patterns in ending terrorism to suggest how insights from that history can lay a foundation for more effective counter-strategies. Finally, it extracts policy prescriptions specifically relevant to ending the campaign of al-Qaeda and its associates, moving towards a post al‑Qaeda world.

    To order: http://www.iiss.org/publications/ade.../how-to-order/

    Being a highly respectable, nay prestigious international think tank you may find a copy in a good university / military library. The author is currently at the US National War College and previously Oxford University. She has written widely on the nature of war and when we last met was working on the Pakistani Army.

    davidbfpo

  2. #62
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    THis is the title for an Adelphi Paper (No.394), published by the London based IISS, Ending Terrorism: Lessons for defeating AQ by Audrey Kurth Cronin, now a few weeks ago, but only reached me a week ago. A fascinating read and recommended.
    Very interesting, David; thanks for posting it. It will take me a while to go through it.
    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
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  3. #63
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    RAND, 28 Jul 08: How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida
    By analyzing 648 groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, this monograph examines how terrorist groups end. Its purpose is to inform U.S. counterterrorist efforts by understanding how groups have ended in the past and to assess implications for countering al Qa’ida.....
    Chapter One: Introduction

    Chapter Two: How Terrorist Groups End

    Chapter Three: Policing and Japan's Aum Shinrikyo

    Chapter Four: Politics and the FMLN in El Salvador

    Chapter Five: Military Force and al Qa'ida in Iraq

    Chapter Six: The Limits of America's al Qa'ida Strategy

    Chapter Seven: Ending the “War” on Terrorism

    Appendix A: End-of-Terror Data Set

    Appendix B: Al Qa'ida Attacks, 1994–2007

    Appendix C: Regression Analysis
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 07-29-2008 at 06:25 PM.

  4. #64
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default RAND comment

    I have skimmed this RAND paper, it has many good points - notably Bruce Hoffman's comments and using the statistics gathered advocates a massive change in the US strategy - more police and intelligence, less military.

    Audrey Cronin's paper is far shorter. They do compliment each other, but if economy of effort is critical - read her paper.

    davidbfpo

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo
    I have skimmed this RAND paper, it has many good points - notably Bruce Hoffman's comments and using the statistics gathered advocates a massive change in the US strategy - more police and intelligence, less military.

    Audrey Cronin's paper is far shorter. They do compliment each other, but if economy of effort is critical - read her paper.
    ....but if economy of pocketbook is critical - the RAND piece is a free download and Cronin's paper is $28.95

    However, for all of us cheap bastards, her '06 piece from International Security, which is essentially an earlier version of the same theme, How al-Qaida Ends: The Decline and Demise of Terrorist Groups, is available for free download....

  6. #66
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Finally found time to read the RAND Paper.

    I'm inclined to agree with most of their findings and conclusions. I differ from them on many minor and three major points:

    1. They advocate a change in strategy to emphasize law enforcement and intelligence operations. IOW, they want to change what we are doing to do what we are doing. Many confuse the war in Iraq as a part if not the major activity of the 'War on Terrorism' (in fairness because of really poor messages to that effect from the Administration). It is in a sense but, even though it is the big story in the media, it is only one small part of the counterterror effort involving US intel and LE assets worldwide that is and has been ongoing for several years. So no cigar there...

    2. They advocate minimal use of military force and use of local forces rather than US. Agree with the concept -- but as they point out, AQ et.al. are now concentrating on Afghanistan (vs. their previous concentration on Iraq) -- so we are merely, again, doing what they advocate. We are more heavily involved in Afghanistan than we'd like due to lack of local capability; we were more involved in Iraq for the same reason (and the fact that some idiot disbanded the Iraqi Army and Police instead of paying them to get retrained...). So, again, no cigar.

    3. They acknowledge they had little data on religious groups, state that AQ is unlikely to win in the long term and advocate infiltration and police work as the best vehicle to contain or eliminate the AQ problem. I don't really disagree with that but must point out that infiltrating AQ will not be easy and you have to have effective police (or counterterror agencies) to complement the effective intel effort. Note the 'effective;' some nations have those and some do not, some have one and not the other. As an international player, AQ requires international intel and LE cooperation; we do not have that at an adequate level and the US cannot do much about that except strive for improvement. Further, the quasi-religious dedication sparked by AQ will not just go away and their heavy reliance on ideological terror activity to buttress their points is, I believe, misguided. So I guess I give the paper an 'A' for a great academic exercise that only merits a 'D' for practical applicability.

    All IMO, of course.

    I believe on balance that the paper provided no new insights -- I can recall nothing I read in it that I'd consider groundbreaking; most of their recommendations and findings have been in slightly different form around for some time. I realize that the think tanks and studies such as this have to offer 'new directions' -- if they said keep doing what you're doing, they'd quickly go out of business -- but I truly missed anything new in this one.

  7. #67
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    Default Send out the constable .... ;

    I ain't buying.

    COIN strategy, operations and tactics "ain't my department"; but some conclusions raise policy issues - so, IMO.

    Rand
    First, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts. In Europe, North America, North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, al Qa段da consists of a network of individuals who need to be tracked and arrested. This would require careful work abroad from such organizations as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as their cooperation with foreign police and intelligence agencies.
    No argument about co-operation, etc. between CIA, FBI and their external equivalents (subject to standard caveats; e,g., "there are friendly nations, there are no friendly intelligence agencies" - but "we can co-operate, so to speak."). I object to "arrest" as the magic bullet.

    With AQ (as with any adversary), there are three basic, non-exclusive paths:

    (not a quote - just to set it out)

    1. Convert (difficult to do for hard-core AQ)

    2. Contain (arrest & prosecution is one aspect of this path - so, within my department as to that)

    3. Kill (in other persons' departments).
    All three paths should be pursued - based on specific METT-TC, as the military guys say.

    Rand
    Second, military force, though not necessarily U.S. soldiers, may be a necessary instrument when al Qa段da is involved in an insurgency. Local military forces frequently have more legitimacy to operate than the United States has, and they have a better understanding of the operating environment, even if they need to develop the capacity to deal with insurgent groups over the long run. This means a light U.S. military footprint or none at all.
    No argument, in general, about the first sentence - economy of force is good - except when you get your neck chopped off because there has been too much economy. The issue is the application of the necessary force at the key application point.

    The rest of it - Tora Bora; the ISI and the Pakistan border crossings, etc., come to mind as contra examples.

    True, that a light or no US military footprint gives us fewer international law problems; but that cannot be the determining factor.

    Rand
    Religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups .... Religious groups rarely achieve their objectives. No religious group that has ended achieved victory since 1968.
    Probably some truth there - if the fanatics are not close in beliefs (and practices) to a majority of the target population.

    Fanatics are "integral rigidists" (in the sense used in systematic theology) - all their beliefs and practices have to be accepted, or (they believe) their system will fall apart. So, the Taliban became disliked; as also AQ in Anbar (about which others here have written).

    Perhaps, that is the basic weakness of the extreme Salafist supremacists. I doubt whether their defeat will occur in my lifetime.

  8. #68
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    Default Lessons for Countering al Qa段da and the Way Ahead

    18 Sep 08 testimony before the HASC Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee on Lessons for Countering al Qa段da and the Way Ahead:

    Seth Jones, RAND
    .....The good news about countering al Qa段da is that its probability of success in actually overthrowing any governments is close to zero. While bin Laden enjoys some popular support in much of the Muslim world, this support does not translate into the mass support that organizations such as Hezbollah enjoy in Lebanon. But the bad news is that U.S. efforts against al Qa段da have not been successful. They have now lasted longer than America痴 involvement in World War II. Despite some successes against al Qa段da, the U.S. has not significantly undermined its capabilities. Al Qa段da has been involved in more attacks in a wider geographical area since September 11, 2001, including in such European capitals as London and Madrid. Its organizational structure has also evolved, making it a dangerous enemy. This means that the U.S. strategy in dealing with al Qa段da must change. A strategy based on military force has not been effective. Based on al Qa段da痴 organizational structure and modus operandi, only a strategy based on careful police and intelligence work is likely to be effective.
    Michael Scheuer, The Jamestown Foundation
    .....Finally, it is worth considering whether it might be smarter, cheaper, and less bloody to change the failed foreign policies that brought war with al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies, rather than maintaining those war-motivating policies as divine writ and building an ever-larger military to fight the ever-expanding wars that writ produces. Energy self-sufficiency, a fixed and even obdurate determination to stay out of other peoples religious wars, and a much more narrowly defined set of genuine U.S. national interests would require far less frequent resort to war and would be much more consonant with timelessly wise foreign-policy goals of our country痴 Founding Fathers.
    John Arquilla, NPS
    ....Indeed, it might serve us best if we completely reconsidered the very problematic notion of waging a war of ideas against an enemy whose core constituency of zealots numbering in the several tens of millions, if opinion polls across the Muslim world are to be believed will never be talked down by even the slickest rhetoric. So instead, with the goal in mind of improving our ability to detect, disrupt and destroy terror networks, we should recast our intellectual efforts in favor of conducting 殿 war of ideas about the idea of war. If such a debate were fostered and undertaken, there would be a good chance that our military might be able to make the shift, in a more supple manner, from industrial-age interstate warfare characterized by mass-on-mass maneuvers to the new age of conflict in which the fundamental dynamic is that of 塗ider/finder, and whose key tactical formation is a swarm capable of simultaneous, omni-directional attack.....

  9. #69
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default New jihad code threatens al Qaeda

    It's about time. Documentary airs 15 Nov.

    New jihad code threatens al Qaeda
    Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank, CNN

    Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- From within Libya's most secure jail a new challenge to al Qaeda is emerging.

    Leaders of one of the world's most effective jihadist organizations, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), have written a new "code" for jihad. The LIFG says it now views the armed struggle it waged against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime for two decades as illegal under Islamic law.

    The new code, a 417-page religious document entitled "Corrective Studies" is the result of more than two years of intense and secret talks between the leaders of the LIFG and Libyan security officials.

    The code's most direct challenge to al Qaeda is this: "Jihad has ethics and morals because it is for God. That means it is forbidden to kill women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders and the like. Betrayal is prohibited and it is vital to keep promises and treat prisoners of war in a good way. Standing by those ethics is what distinguishes Muslims' jihad from the wars of other nations."

    The code has been circulated among some of the most respected religious scholars in the Middle East and has been given widespread backing. It is being debated by politicians in the U.S. and studied by western intelligence agencies.

    In essence the new code for jihad is exactly what the West has been waiting for: a credible challenge from within jihadist ranks to al Qaeda's ideology.

    While the code states that jihad is permissible if Muslim lands are invaded -- citing the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine -- the guidelines it sets down for when and how jihad should be fought, and its insistence that civilians should not be targeted are a clear rebuke to the goals and tactics of bin Laden's terrorist network.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-29-2017 at 08:56 PM. Reason: 6k views until merged

  10. #70
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Terrorism ends: AQ & Ulster

    In a rather interesting contrast BBC Radio 4 'Start the Week' programme had Professor Audrey Cronin and Sir Hugh Orde (former RUC/PSNI Chief Constable) discuss their perspectives: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/stw/

    Hopefully available to listen tobeyond the UK (unlike some TV items I have posted).
    davidbfpo

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    It is important to keep in mind that civilian police work and intelligence work are going to work when you have a regime you can work with. Nobody is advocating going to war against Britain in spite of a number of terrorists who were radicalised in Britain or come from Britain. Clearly, Britain is a friendly government and we can take it from there.

    The problem is the existence of states that do NOT wish to cooperate (or pretend to cooperate and don't). Military operations are sometimes the only way to change such a govt (Afghanistan) or to force it to change its behavior. Of course, it doesnt have to be a frontal attack. Pakistan may be said to have changed course because of the fear of military action rather than actual action (though there is some confusion about the issue and the army's insane obsession with India makes it resistant to some forms of anti-terror cooperation even now)....

    On another note: It may be a mistake to focus too much on the Islamic roots of Salafist terrorism. The idea of Islamic solidarity and the way military supremacy and religion were intertwined in early Islamic history means that classical Islamism (there must be a better term, but i am in a hurry) provides a ready made tool for anyone wishing to organize military resistance (or terrorism, same thing on a different scale), but in the end, populations seem to respond to straightforward "secular" pressures even though the supposed ideology does not change.

    EVEN in supposedly fanatical Pathan lands, with decisive military superiority (and ruthlessness), Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled over several Pakhtun districts with no more trouble than he was getting within Punjab from fellow sikhs and "less fanatical" muslims.

    My point is, it may be a distraction to be too hung up on trying to change the supposed ideology of "fundamentalist Muslims". History, not argument, undermined the gods. Ideological change will come from within when it's need is felt strongly enough (and its need IS being felt). Foreign powers may be better off dealing in standard carrots and sticks and not making too much of a fuss about why Achmed insists on believing that infidels should pay Jizya. Unless his army can beat the infidel army, that dream is going nowhere.....

    Of course, I am all in favor of USAID supporting arts and literature and CIA front companies employing religious scholars and arranging "courses" in Honolulu for sympathetic intellectuals (because a number of my friends are likely to be beneficiaries of such largesse and because its a worthier cause than paying off rapacious warlords)....I am just saying, that is not the crucial front.

  12. #72
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Confronting al-Qaeda (Afghanistan to the global level)

    Marcus Sageman has written in Perspectives on Terrorism a long piece on
    'Confronting al-Qaeda: Understanding the Threat in Afghanistan' and on a read last night it is really a lot more strategic than Afghanistan IMHO. Note an earlier version was given in late 2009 to the US Senate. He supplements his analysis with several charts.

    The link is:http://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/...d=92&Itemid=54

    A good read and I expect it has drawn some academic "fire", which can be left alone on SWC, see an old thread on this: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=5334
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-30-2009 at 10:45 PM. Reason: Alter and add old thread link
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  13. #73
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al-Qaeda has a new strategy. Obama needs one, too

    Caught on SWJ news summary, Bruce Hoffman on 'Al-Qaeda has a new strategy. Obama needs one, too': http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...d=opinionsbox1

    SWJ summary:In the wake of the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing and the killing a few days later of seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan, Washington is, as it was after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, obsessed with "dots" - and our inability to connect them. "The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots," the president said Tuesday. But for all the talk, two key dots have yet to be connected: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged Northwest Airlines Flight 253 attacker, and Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the trusted CIA informant turned assassin. Although a 23-year-old Nigerian engineering student and a 36-year-old Jordanian physician would seem to have little in common, they both exemplify a new grand strategy that al-Qaeda has been successfully pursuing for at least a year. Throughout 2008 and 2009, U.S. officials repeatedly trumpeted al-Qaeda's demise. In a May 2008 interview with The Washington Post, then-CIA Director Michael Hayden heralded the group's "near strategic defeat." And the intensified aerial drone attacks that President Obama authorized against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan last year were widely celebrated for having killed over half of its remaining senior leadership. Yet, oddly enough for a terrorist movement supposedly on its last legs, al-Qaeda late last month launched two separate attacks less than a week apart - one failed and one successful - triggering the most extensive review of U.S. national security policies since 2001.

    Well worth reading in full IMHO and following my habit this is the last paragraph:
    Remarkably, more than eight years after Sept. 11, we still don't fully understand our dynamic and evolutionary enemy. We claim success when it is regrouping and tally killed leaders while more devious plots are being hatched. Al-Qaeda needs to be utterly destroyed. This will be accomplished not just by killing and capturing terrorists -- as we must continue to do -- but by breaking the cycle of radicalization and recruitment that sustains the movement.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-10-2010 at 04:05 PM. Reason: Add summary and last quote
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  14. #74
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Balancing views

    Two comments on this burgeoning theme in the media and blogsphere. Hat tip to KOW, which set a balancing view: 'Amid the Hysteria, A Look at What al-Qaeda Can't Do' . Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...#ixzz0cE6UE98G

    And on KOW:http://kingsofwar.wordpress.com/2010...gile-republic/
    davidbfpo

  15. #75
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The paradoxes of AQ by Steve Coll

    Steve Coll has appeared giving evidence today before the House Armed Services Committee about Al Qaeda and U.S. policy. My complete testimony follows on the link: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog...#ixzz0dr2PHFtX

    Too long to read fully now.
    davidbfpo

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    This may be applicable here. Leah Farrell, a former Australian counter-terrorism analyst who's writing her PhD dissertation on Al Qaeda, has struck up a relationship with Abu Walid al Masri who she describes as:

    ...currently an author for the Taliban’s flagship magazine, and self declared “old friend” of al Qaeda. He has an amazing history. One of the first Arabs to go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and the first foreigner to swear allegiance to Mullah Omar.
    They're in a dialog and Ms Farrell just posted a translation of al Masri's recent questions and as well as her response. There's much more on her site and it's all well worth the time to read.
    Last edited by Entropy; 01-27-2010 at 10:47 PM. Reason: spelling

  17. #77
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQ Recruiting & Leaving AQ

    A wide-ranging article, headlined 'Recruits seek out al-Qaeda's deadly embrace across a growing arc of jihadist terror. Just two years ago al-Qaeda was believed to be on the back foot. Now the jihadist group is attracting ever more recruits across a growing arc of terror'.

    The Yemen and Somalia appear a lot.

    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...st-terror.html

    As a contrast a story announcing a WINEP report on those who leave: http://counterterrorismblog.org/PRIV...earning_fr.php and the report itself: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/p...cyFocus101.pdf
    davidbfpo

  18. #78
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al-Qaeda Central: Capabilities, Allies, and Messages

    On Feb. 25, 2010, the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative and Foreign Policy magazine hosted "Al-Qaeda Central: Capabilities, Allies, and Messages," a conference about the two strikingly different but simultaneously accurate pictures of al-Qaeda have dominated recent discussion of the terrorist group: one, a resilient foe still determined to attack the United States and its interests abroad, and the other, a wounded organization whose leaders are being hunted down and killed.

    The New America Foundation also released a series of papers designed to address the current state of the threat from al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan- and Pakistan-based central leadership, its allies, and messaging strategies:

    Paul Cruickshank, "The Militant Pipeline Between the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region and the West." (Executive summary.)

    Barbara Sude, "Al-Qaeda Central: An Assessment of the Threat Posed by the Terrorist Group Headquartered on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border."

    Stephen Tankel, "Lashkar-e-Taiba in Perspective: An Evolving Threat."

    Link:http://counterterrorism.newamerica.n..._qaeda_central

    There is a pod cast for the presentations and I listened earlier to the first, excellent and started the sceond before chores arrived.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-26-2010 at 02:01 PM.
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  19. #79
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The evolution of command

    Leah Farrell has written a short article on AQ command; key points:
    Key Points

    1. Al-Qaeda’s decentralised operating structure has cushioned it from the impact of droneattacks and arrests. A clear hierarchy remains intact, supported by robust and adaptable command and control processes, despite the losses it has suffered since 2001.

    2. This modus operandi for external operations plots has remained remarkably constant in recent years, with plot members assigned several points of contact who provide technical and logistical support.

    3. Nearly all recent disruptions to Al-Qaeda’s operational activity have occurred outside of its Pakistan-based command structure via the arrest of couriers tasked with facilitating franchise communication or co-ordinating the
    activities of operatives in the West planning for attacks.
    Full article:http://allthingsct.files.wordpress.c...20-command.pdf

    One caveat… I wrote this in September/October last year so it is a little dated in terms of drone attacks etc. However, I still stand by the arguments I made in this piece.
    davidbfpo

  20. #80
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cracks in the Jihad

    This article was clearly written before the Times Square attack and appears within a Kings of War comment:http://kingsofwar.org.uk/2010/05/com...(Kings+of+War)which in itself is of value.

    Cracks is by Tomas Rid, he opens with:
    Yet it is only growing more difficult to defeat the global jihad.
    and near the end:
    The global jihad is losing what David Galula called a strong cause, and with it its political character. This change is making it increasingly difficult to distinguish jihad from organized crime on the one side and rudderless fanaticism on the other.
    Link:http://www.wilsonquarterly.com/article.cfm?AID=1523
    davidbfpo

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