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Thread: Insurgent sources

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    Default Insurgent sources

    I am writing my Senior Honors Thesis for my International Studies degree at UC San Diego, and I need help from anyone who might possess knowledge concerning where the insurgent forces, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, are learning from? What are their sources in terms of developing tactics, techniques, and technologies that they in turn employ against US forces?

    Specifically, is there any link between European terrorism and that of contemporary Islamist origins? Whether that entails Gallic rebellions against the Romans, French revolutionaries in 1789, and the rampant terrorism that plagued Europe in the 1970's-1990's (ETA, Red Brigade, IRA, Baader-Meinhof)?

    Any academic sources, personal experiences, or even anecdotal evidence would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again.

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    This thread is a potential rabbit hole for OPSEC issues. I recommend it's closed.

    Your thesis subject is a little too contemporary, operationally relevent, and current, I believe, to put together a worthwhile study through open source.

    From the looks of your name, though you have not introduced yourself, you appear to be an ROTC student who is joining our military intelligence community. OPSEC is going to be your watchword.

    If you aren't who your name indicates you to be, then I'm not going to run the risk that I'm giving the other team the playbook.

    Good luck in your endeavors.
    Example is better than precept.

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Your thesis subject is a little too contemporary, operationally relevent, and current, I believe, to put together a worthwhile study through open source.

    Isn't one of the basic criticisms of academics that we aren't contemporary, operationally relevant, and current?

    I agree though, no introduction, no help with the homework. Xander gave us a bunch of stuff to work with. That is what an request for assistance should look like.
    Sam Liles
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Isn't one of the basic criticisms of academics that we aren't contemporary, operationally relevant, and current?

    I agree though, no introduction, no help with the homework. Xander gave us a bunch of stuff to work with. That is what an request for assistance should look like.
    Sensitive is probably the better way of putting it. I think it should be contemporary, operationally relevant and current - just in order to do it justice it's going to have some non-open sources. That's my concern.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    This thread is a potential rabbit hole for OPSEC issues. I recommend it's closed.

    Your thesis subject is a little too contemporary, operationally relevent, and current, I believe, to put together a worthwhile study through open source.
    There is a productive middle ground between [names, dates, places, sources & methods, current deficiencies/innovations] on the one hand, and [dated, irrelevant, academic masturbation] on the other. This board is largely dedicated to seizing and expanding that middle ground.

    Play on.

    Do this well. That includes being aware of the valid risks RTK notes, not crossing them, and a bit of substance (content & intro) as selil notes.

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    Default Apologies, and clarification

    First off, I apologize for not fully introducing myself in my initial post, I do not usually use any type of open source for academic research and am therefore largely unfamiliar with basic courtesies. Indeed, I did not believe that I could use this type of evidence until my thesis adviser, a retired Air Force Intel Officer and current Poli Sci professor, pointed me to this site as an excellent resource, which it has proved to be.

    In introduction, I am a college senior and ROTC MSIV and company commander, I recently branched MI, my first choice, and have submitted my TS clearance and list of duty stations.

    In no way did I intend to violate OPSEC, and I do not believe that I have, as my question focuses on what the insurgents already know, what their sources are. I already know that they download and read our own FM's, books, and blogs. I am more concerned with any European connection as I previously stated. Western academics and media often overlook our own storied history with terrorism (IRA, ETA, Red Brigade, Baader-Meinhof, etc).

    Once again I would appreciate any help with this question from anyone who has been there and done it.

    If you would like, please email me at REMOVED BY MODERATOR USE PM FUNCTION TO CONTACT USER.

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by selil; 11-29-2008 at 02:37 AM.

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    Default Post your thesis outline ...

    in summary, bulletpoint format - e.g., chaps 1-5, whatever, with a brief synopsis under each point - headings and short paragraphs. That will give people here an idea of whether they have anything they can share with you.

    I wouldn't post stuff like email address here - recall you're posting to the wide, wide world - and you'll show up on Google. If someone wants that, they will PM you.

    Fill out the About Me form - use mine as an example of straight forward (other folks have better senses of humor).

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    Quote Originally Posted by NewMI2LT View Post
    I do not usually use any type of open source for academic research
    Given that "open source" is usually used to referred to everything that isn't classified, I imagine that you primarily or exclusively rely on open sources in your academic research.

    Quote Originally Posted by NewMI2LT View Post
    In no way did I intend to violate OPSEC, and I do not believe that I have, as my question focuses on what the insurgents already know, what their sources are.
    RTK's concern, I think, is not simply your research question, but much more your research methodology—specifically that you asked for "personal experiences, or even anecdotal evidence." Those personal experiences ("My convoy was attacked in Ramadi twice by javelin-throwers with chariots, which seemed odd until we captured an AQI cell leader with a well-thumbed copy of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars...") could potentially reveal information not in the public domain, and compromise ongoing military operations (for example, the methods of the DoD's much-vaunted Joint Horse-Drawn Device Defeat Organization).

    I'm being facetious, of course, but I believe that was the point being made. As long as you limit yourself to OS published materials, however, you'll be fine.

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    Default No Open Sources?? and some thoughts for your project

    Quote Originally Posted by NewMI2LT View Post
    I do not usually use any type of open source for academic research and am therefore largely unfamiliar with basic courtesies. Indeed, I did not believe that I could use this type of evidence until my thesis adviser, a retired Air Force Intel Officer and current Poli Sci professor, pointed me to this site as an excellent resource, which it has proved to be.
    Surely this statement did not come out the way you meant it to and I say this half in jest. I do not know how you could do any type of academic research without using open sources (and since you have only applied for your security clearance I would question how you could have been using classified information for all your research). But I do not think that is what you meant and I assume from the context of your post that you meant you do not usually use sources such as Small Wars Journal or solicit assistance via the Internet. But looking back over your statement about not using open source for academic research is slightly humorous.

    But I do wish you luck. I would not be too worried about OPSEC but if I were advising you I would say be careful that you have not already written your conclusion without the data to back it up. Sounds like your "real thesis" is that no one is seeing the links that you think you see and because of this we are missing something in our execution of the war on terrorism. I would caution anyone doing research to have a foregone conclusion as it will taint your search for and analysis of the facts.

    However, my belief is that the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) being used by the enemy are not all that unique or new. The use of terror, the techniques to cause terror in the hearts and minds of people and governments are not that new. Sure they are adapted to today's technology and there are certain adaptations due to specific cultural influences but in the end the TTPs are all variations on a theme. Now if you accept such a thesis then you have to ask, "so what?" E.G., so what if today's terrorists are using the TTPs is the Red Brigade and Baader Meinhof or others? How is that going to help us? Yes it would be nice to be able to predict (or more realistically, anticipate) what might happen in the future but we should also realize that the range of TTPs, likely targets, and timing are made up of infinite variations making any type of prediction impossible. There are only about 5 things that we can do to be successful against terrorists (and insurgents):
    1. Deny sanctuary
    2. Deny mobility
    3. Deny access to resources
    4. Separate the population from the terrorists/insurgents (denying them support that provides sanctuary, mobility, and resources)
    5. Conduct comprehensive (or holistic or all source) intelligence activities that facilitate targeting but also includes infiltration into terror networks which is the only way we can really have any chance of any kind of anticipatory action.

    But I would ask you even if you can "prove" that today's terrorists have read and adapted the TTPs of European terrorists how that will help us?

    Here is another example for you. Mao, Giap, and Ho Chi Minh developed their revolutionary theories and operational strategies based in part on studying the greatest insurgency ever successfully executed: the American Revolution. Mao, in particular, studied George Washington in some depth. We knew that, but did that help us to prevent Mao from defeating Chaing? Could it have helped us? I doubt it.

    Again, I wish you the best in your research.
    Last edited by max161; 11-29-2008 at 02:20 AM. Reason: addition
    David S. Maxwell
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    Default As an old MI puke

    I learned a long time ago to be very cautious about taking classified sources too seriously. Technical stuff (classified) is often very good but at the same time very limited. Today, you can get stuff as good or better than we got during the Cuban Missile Crisis from Google Earth! But you still can't look inside a cave in Afghanistan. HUMINT from espionage nets is essential for denied areas (like the old USSR) but a good reporter usually gets better stuff than official reporting whether from the Embassy or intel agencies in relatively open societies. One problem is that the foreign correspondents are fewer than in the old days and don't have enough time on the ground to develop the kinds of sources their predecessors did. That said, there are many more unofficial observers on the ground today and they have access to the internet. Still, you have to be careful of using what you find on the net.

    Bottom line is that some of the best stuff on Al Qaeda, for example, is from open sources like Peter Bergen, Rohan Gunaratna, and Raymond Ibrahim's The Al Qaeda Reader. Note that all the world's intel agencies were surprised by the Mumbai attacks but I wouldn't be shocked to find that they were predicted in some open source (I have no knowldge that they were but it would not surprise me).

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Default I strongly concur with John

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    I learned a long time ago to be very cautious about taking classified sources too seriously. Technical stuff (classified) is often very good but at the same time very limited. Today, you can get stuff as good or better than we got during the Cuban Missile Crisis from Google Earth! But you still can't look inside a cave in Afghanistan. HUMINT from espionage nets is essential for denied areas (like the old USSR) but a good reporter usually gets better stuff than official reporting whether from the Embassy or intel agencies in relatively open societies. One problem is that the foreign correspondents are fewer than in the old days and don't have enough time on the ground to develop the kinds of sources their predecessors did. That said, there are many more unofficial observers on the ground today and they have access to the internet. Still, you have to be careful of using what you find on the net.

    Bottom line is that some of the best stuff on Al Qaeda, for example, is from open sources like Peter Bergen, Rohan Gunaratna, and Raymond Ibrahim's The Al Qaeda Reader. Note that all the world's intel agencies were surprised by the Mumbai attacks but I wouldn't be shocked to find that they were predicted in some open source (I have no knowldge that they were but it would not surprise me).

    Cheers

    JohnT
    And in addition, when we use classified information and write classified reports the audience that can be influenced is narrow. Use as much open source as possible and keep your reports unclassified and you have a better chance of making a positive contribution.

    In the intelligence realm we think "having a need to know" and compartmentalization. When we think about information from an operational perspective we think "who else should know." E.G., who needs to know that information in order to achieve an operational or strategic effect in accordance with the campaign plan.

    People are enamored with classified information and think it lends credibility to what they are writing but 1) most of the classified information can be found in open sources and 2) just because it is classified does not necessarily make it more credible than open source information. John is exactly right. The researchers he mentions (and I would add Bruce Hoffman and Marc Sagemen among many others - and like it or not journalists are also some of the best information providers) provide some of the best threat analysis that we have and they write for open source consumption. Don't discount their writings just because they are not classified.
    Last edited by max161; 11-29-2008 at 02:30 AM. Reason: spelling
    David S. Maxwell
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    In no way did I intend to violate OPSEC, and I do not believe that I have, as my question focuses on what the insurgents already know, what their sources are. I already know that they download and read our own FM's, books, and blogs. I am more concerned with any European connection as I previously stated. Western academics and media often overlook our own storied history with terrorism (IRA, ETA, Red Brigade, Baader-Meinhof, etc).
    I concur wholeheartedly with you, and I'm an OPSEC nazi. OPSEC is designed to protect "our" current and projected operations when and where it is possible and desired. What you're asking is no way an OPSEC violation, and I think further study on how terrorists learn will be beneficial to the community at large.

    Specifically, is there any link between European terrorism and that of contemporary Islamist origins? Whether that entails Gallic rebellions against the Romans, French revolutionaries in 1789, and the rampant terrorism that plagued Europe in the 1970's-1990's (ETA, Red Brigade, IRA, Baader-Meinhof)?
    I am curious about your focus on European terrorism and its links to, I assume, Islamist terrorist groups and their TTPs. You also seem to use the terms terrorist and insurgent interchangeably. We could have long academic debates over that one, so please clarify your intent. While there are many areas that overlap, an insurgent movement is generally more complex politically than a terrorist organization. There are many exceptions to that argument, and many gray areas, but in general I think that remains true. Al Qaeda can probably be considered a hybrid between insurgent and terrorist in some countries, and simple terrorists in others. For example, Al Qaeda is interesting in over throwing some governments (insurgent/foreign invaders/non-state sponsors of unconventional warfare, etc.) and in others they simply conduct terrorist attacks to influence their polices such as their attacks on the U.S..

    There are several angles to look at terrorist/insurgent learning, here are few that might be of interest:

    European Terrorist Groups training with Palestinian Terrorist Groups in various training camps thorughout the 60s, 70s, and early 80s that were allegedly (high probability) that were state sponsored by such great stewards of peace as Libya, Syria, North Korea, and perhaps the USSR. If you're focused specifically on insurgents, then in a quick review of Cuban and Chinese advisor operations will indicate they had a substantial influence in passing on a large volume of knowledge on insurgency organization and tactics.

    European Muslims participated in various Middle Eastern terrorist activities either by donating or volunteering to fight. The greatest terrorist university was in Pakistan (funded by several major powers in the West, and most of the training provided by the ISI of Pakistan) in the 1980s. When the Soviets departed the university expanding into Afghanistan and other locations. Jihadi's returning from this experience have set up various training camps in Indonesia, Philippines, etc.. I think the key to this training is simply passing on the TTP, but the indoctrination process. You can expose someone to propaganda on the internet, and you may generate a few converts, but the real indoctrination process happens in groups when you are encouraged to adapt to group norms.

    Study how criminals and terrorists learn in prision, another great university and networking site. Many, if not most insurgent movements have origins that trace to their leaders being jailed.

    I suspect you already did a search on-line via google or other programs on terrorist, insurgent, and anarchist materials. The amount of knowledge on-line is overwhelming. The effectiveness of on line learning is a subject that is debated among various experts.

    Sorry for the shotgun blast, just wanted to throw some ideas out there to stimulate the imagination.

    I would recommend starting with the book:

    Teaching Terror: Strategic and Tactical Learning in the Terrorist World, edited by James JF Forest
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 11-29-2008 at 07:22 AM. Reason: Clarification

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    Regarding connections to Europe, a good place to start would be looking into the history and connections of Ansar al-Islam (formerly Ansar al-Sunna, former Ansar al-Islam, formerly a bunch of splinter groups that merged, such as Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, etc). They are not a big successful franchise operation like al-Qaeda, but they've got quite the worldwide network that includes Italy, Norway, and probably other European countries. I know this because I was looking into the group when it was known as Ansar al-Sunna. To speak to another point raised on this thread, I was frustrated with inaccurate and incomplete information on classified networks, so I went online and found more accurate, timely, and complete information from Jamestown.org and other reputable sources.

    Not sure what ever came of this, but see also link between IRA and PLO.
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 11-29-2008 at 03:56 AM. Reason: Added link

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    Default Shape without form

    To speak to another point raised on this thread, I was frustrated with inaccurate and incomplete information on classified networks, so I went online and found more accurate, timely, and complete information from Jamestown.org and other reputable sources.
    I second that one brother, the intelligence community is looking at the world through a soda straw. Somehow we got to the point that when a junior intelligence NCO or officer, with limited expertise in a particular area, writes a classified report it is considered more credible than a report by an experienced reporter (expert in the area, speaks the language, as multiple contacts) or academic. My hat is off to the analysts, they have a tough job and they do it well in most cases, my criticism is leveled towards our bias against source material. It is often very valuable, and as you stated frequently more accurate and timely.

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    Here is what really bothered me - and I've asked every MI officer that I've ever worked with from BN to DIV, and from MI Co to INSCOM: does anyone compile a thorough tally of our intel for various factions? Take my earlier example of Ansar al-Islam. Let's say that I know nothing about the group and I'm going to be operating in an area where AAI operates. I need to get read up on them quickly. Where do I go for the intel? The answer from everyone that I've asked: run a query on X database or Y search tool, get a bunch of intel reports (most of them with redundant, outdated, or inaccurate information) and start reading. That makes no sense. I don't want to WRITE the report. I want to READ it. Isn't there one analyst - at least at DIV level or higher - who focuses exclusively on one faction? If not, I don't understand why. If there is, then not nearly enough people know about his work because none of the MI officers whom I spoke to seemed to know.

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    I second John Fishel's reference to Peter Bergen. He is very good. he wrote a ten point plan for Astan not to long ago as an open letter to President Elect Obama.

    One of the all time best books I read was "Thinking Like A Terrorist" he discussses some common links to the IRA and PLO if I remember.

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    Default Observations, Endnotes, & Bibliography worth considering...

    H. John Poole's 2004 Tactics of the Crescent Moon (ISBN 0-9638695-7-4)
    Sapere Aude

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    Default Pick Abu Buckwheat's Brain

    He is on here and an excellent source and look at his book

    Malcolm Nance The Terrorists of Iraq: Inside the Strategy and Tactics of the Iraq Insurgency (Paperback)

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    Default I'm ashamed of myself

    for not mentioning Abu Buckwheat aka Malcom Nance. I second Tom's comment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Surferbeetle View Post
    H. John Poole's 2004 Tactics of the Crescent Moon (ISBN 0-9638695-7-4)
    For the love of God, please, do not read anything Poole has written, except for "The Last 100 Yards."

    Unless, of course, you're interested in half-truths and fiction, that is....

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