Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now, what was I saying?

Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida

By: Seth G. Jones, Martin C. Libicki

All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa'ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: Policymakers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention. The authors report that religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups and rarely achieve their objectives. The largest groups achieve their goals more often and last longer than the smallest ones do. Finally, groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and less likely to have religion as their motivation. The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa'ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase “war on terrorism” since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa'ida.

The full report will cost you about USD30 (that is about NZD40 than I can spare at the moment).

Now, who is going to prove Rand is wrong?

1 comment:

Dave Justus said...

I'm not sure how appropriate the 'lessons' are here. Most terrorist groups historically have been within a single nation and focused on that nation. In such a case, either the terrorist group would win, in which it becomes the government, partially win (joining the political process) or be wiped out by local government forces (police, intelligence and yes, sometimes military where there is a distinction.)

Al-Qaida isn't that sort of beast though. It is international in scale and global in its goals. It can 'win' in one area, for example Afghanistan and become the defacto government of that region without having accomplished its goals and thus ceasing to be a terrorist group. Afghanistan was a clear case of a nation state being under defacto control of a terror group and the only solution possible there was military, as obvious 'local police' were unlikey to be arresting Bin Laden. Similar issues on a smaller scale exist in Pakistan where Al-Qaida has defacto control of certain regions and unless the Pakistani (unlikely at this point) or other armed forces are able to break their control of the region no arrests will be possible.

Similar situations existed in places within Iraq. Al-Qaida controlled Fallujah required a military solution to establish a legitimate police pressence for example.

On the other hand, it is clearly not smart to send the Marines after criminals in areas where the rule of law is functioning. Which is why we see in places like Buffalo, Paris, London, and Riyad police using intelligence resources to make arrests.