Posts Tagged ‘Counter-Radicalisation’

Re-ordering the UK’s Campaign Primacy

4 August, 2008

In a weekend interview with The Daily Telegraph, which was also picked up by The Times, Brigadier Ed Butler – the former head of the SAS, and former commander of British forces in Afghanistan – claimed that not only were some British Muslims fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that militant Islamic groups in south-east Asia were also supporting terrorist plots in the UK.

“There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places like Kandahar… There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands, but the British public does not.”

Given this relationship between the foreign and domestic theatres, what are the implications for UK counterinsurgency strategy? In an article entitled Re-ordering the UK’s Campaign Primacy, IRG founder John Mackinlay argues that in the UK we are currently making a mistake in placing our expeditionary commitments over our domestic campaign, and that the current counterinsurgency discourse – as embodied in US Army / USMC FM 3-24 – is insufficiently nuanced to address the nature of the threat posed to Europe, and the UK in particular, by contemporary global insurgency:

Although doctrinally US and UK forces appear to have changed course, the core values of our security institutions remain the same, and at their most instinctive level they have not altered sufficiently to keep up with the changing world. In operational terms we are still facing backwards towards an era when counterinsurgency was a purely expeditionary activity, whereas in reality we need to be thinking more seriously about a 21st century adversary which does not require overseas territories, and which flourishes within our own population.

Representing an overwhelming US presence, US counterinsurgency doctrine is likely to become the concept for every future coalition. So it is this doctrine, and not a yet to be written NATO or national version, which will influence our future modus operandi.

FM3-24 has the appearance of novelty, it mentions the ‘global dimension’ and the possibility of ‘insurgent networks’, but in practical terms its prescriptions are only relevant to an expeditionary, territorial intervention focused on a particular state, with a clearly recognisable centre of gravity. The US doctrine is saying in effect that although the adversary which we seek to address is established globally and exerts itself in the virtual dimension, the military response will be a traditional unilateral expedition, whose capabilities will be tangible, territorial and limited to a space that is physical.

As a result of our failure to fully appreciate the inter-relationship of the domestic and expeditionary elements of our counterinsurgency campaign – or, at least, our failure to operationalise this understanding – it is argued that in the UK we are dangerously neglecting the former in pursuit of the latter.

In common with other European states the British government is engaged on two fronts, the overseas expeditions against the supposed sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a domestic campaign to stem disaffection and radicalisation in its own population. These campaigns are organisationally distinct. The overseas effort principally involves Defence, Foreign Affairs and Overseas Development, whereas the domestic plan of action principally involves the Home Affairs ministry. The problem is that in the UK the images and reverberations of the overseas campaign act against the domestic campaign. It is the continuous traffic of routine news and political debate concerning British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than old fashioned jihadi propaganda, which antagonises the vulnerable Muslim element of the British population, especially those who see their faith as the target of the war against terror.

Despite the obfuscations of its government, the British de facto give primacy to the expeditionary campaign. This prioritisation is not explicit, but by deed and declaration the government pursues its expeditionary campaigns in denial and disregard of mounting evidence that the UK’s foreign policy and military profile in the war against terror contributes to the increasing radicalisation of its own Muslim population.

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Read the full article here:
Re-ordering the UK’s Campaign Primacy

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Why Terrorists Quit

18 July, 2008

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has released the July issue [PDF] of its CTC Sentinel journal, which is quickly establishing itself as one of the finest non-subscription publications addressing contemporary terrorism and insurgency around.

The July issue leads with an article by Michael Jacobson entitled Why Terrorists Quit: Gaining From Al-Qa`ida’s Losses, which argues that there are valuable lessons to be learned from an understanding of the processes by which individual terrorists have in the past become de-radicalised, voluntarily de-selecting themselves from participation in contemporary jihadist militancy. Jacobson’s thoughts on this subject were examined in a March posting on this blog.

Also of note is Kirsten E. Schulze’s piece entitled Indonesia’s Approach to Jihadist Deradicalization, which provides an Indonesian perspective on the practice of ‘COIN Inside the Wire’ – the process of integrating rehabilitation of captured militants into broader COIN campaigns – a strategy whose implementation by the Saudis, and by the US in Iraq, was examined in this post earlier this month.

The full line up is as follows:

Why Terrorists Quit: Gaining From Al-Qa`ida’s Losses
By Michael Jacobson

An Ideological and Operational Threat: Abu `Amr/Shaykh `Isa
By Erich Marquardt & Abdul Hameed Bakier

Indonesia’s Approach to Jihadist Deradicalization
By Kirsten E. Schulze

The High Stakes Battle for the Future of Musa Qala
By David C. Isby

Al-Qa`ida Seeking to Recruit African-American Muslims
By Cadets Benjamin Haas & Daniel McGrory

Propaganda and Peace Deals: The Taliban’s Information War in Pakistan
By Arthur Keller

Uncovering Extremist Violence in Morocco
By Alison Pargeter

After Action Report: Nuanced Diplomacy in Zerok, Afghanistan
By Captain John G. Gibson, U.S. Army

COIN Inside the Wire – Jihadist Rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia

6 July, 2008

Journalist Shiraz Maher has an interesting article in today’s Sunday Times looking at Saudi efforts to rehabilitate captured Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants.

Although the Saudi programme’s emphasis on rehabilitating and releasing captured terrorists back into society makes it controversial in some quarters, there is increasing appreciation among COIN practitioners of the importance of ensuring detainee operations are consistent with the wider strategic goal of winning the war of ideas and securing the support of the population – a concept now often referred to as ‘COIN inside the wire’.

As such, the Saudi model – itself inspired by the success of a similar programme run by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) in Singaporean prisons with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detainees – is increasingly being implemented by US detention programmes in Iraq (see The Financial Times article linked to below).

Extracts:

It has been called the Betty Ford clinic for jihadists and within minutes of arriving at the Care Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Riyadh, you can see why. The small complex, where the Saudi Arabian government is exploring a new way of reforming its wayward radicals, feels more like an exclusive boarding school than a Saudi jail.

The Times

Inmates have access to swimming pools, table tennis and PlayStations. In the evenings, guards and prisoners play football. An air-conditioned tent sits adjacent to the sports field, serving as a dining hall and common room where, when I visited, the prisoners were tucking into rice and lamb with fresh fruit for pudding.

In return for this privileged treatment, the prisoners – Islamic extremists, some of whom are convicted murderers – are obliged to attend lessons based around Islamic law and the jurisprudence of jihad. A team of psychologists teaches detainees how they should manage their emotions, particularly when reacting to world events.

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The Saudi government insists all this is necessary to promote genuine rehabilitation and foster a meaningful relationship with the jihadists. But in the easy-going atmosphere of the “resort” – nobody calls it a prison – where inmates are referred to as “beneficiaries”, it is easy to forget the seriousness of some of their crimes.

The centre is divided into six areas, four of which hold Saudi nationals who fought (or tried to) in Iraq. The other two hold returnees from Guantanamo Bay.

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The government has realised that the use of force alone will not contain Al-Qaeda. It has created an ideological security unit that coordinates the kingdom’s efforts in the war of ideas against its native jihadists. Those arrested in connection with terrorism are routinely subjected to attempts to reform their thinking.

Five jails, each housing 1,200 prisoners, have been built specifically for jihadists with the purpose of promoting ideological reform through dialogue and debate. Religious instruction in these prisons is directed by an advisory committee, which is also closely involved with the care centre.

The new prisons are far from the relaxed environment of the Care Rehabilitation Centre. Housing some of the most senior Al-Qaeda leaders in the kingdom, they are maximum security with sophisticated systems to deter any militants hoping to target them, including the use of buried seismic cables and microwave detection equipment.

CCTV also operates in the prisons, including cells and interrogation rooms. Most prisoners have a cell to themselves or occasionally share, although the rooms have been designed to minimise contact with other prisoners and are largely self-contained. Cells are fitted with their own televisions, encased behind toughened glass, and are centrally controlled by the guards. They are used to transmit religious education lectures prepared by the advisory committee directly into cells where inmates later have an opportunity to debate ideas and ask questions using an intercom.

After serving their sentence in these jails, prisoners are moved to the rehabilitation centre, which opened 18 months ago. It is designed to be a halfway house where ideas first introduced by the advisory committee in prison are consolidated and developed. The men are also given extensive support to help to reintegrate them into society after they leave, the thinking being that so doing makes them less likely to reoffend.

The initiative was largely inspired by circumstance after a senior Al-Qaeda figure surrendered in response to a royal amnesty. Unsure about what to do with him, the government asked a local sheikh, Ahmad Jilani, to live with him and ensure that he did not abscond while it searched for a more permanent solution.

“We discovered that after living with the sheikh, who challenged his ideas, he began telling us everything about how he was recruited, what attracted him [to jihad] and how Al-Qaeda is operating in the kingdom,” said General Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the interior ministry.

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Families are encouraged to make regular visits to the centre, allowing inmates to socialise with spouses and children. Families have a crucial role to play in reforming the radicals and the centre offers advice on how to help prisoners to readjust after release. The emphasis on preparing both the families and the inmates for reintegration is particularly relevant to those returning from Guantanamo Bay.

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How successful the centre is being in challenging jihadist ideas is hard to measure. The majority of men I met there were not Al-Qaeda’s ideologues but its foot soldiers. Most had answered the call to jihad without fully understanding the Islamist world view and, although religiously motivated, were fuelled by events.

Since its inception none of the inmates from the care centre has reoffended, but a visit to the home of Mohammed al-Fawzan, who tried to join the Islamic army in Iraq and was arrested on the Syrian border, reveals a more intriguing reason why some of those released from the care centre might want to sustain their good behaviour. Parked outside his modest one-bedroom apartment in a poor district of Riyadh is Fawzan’s new Toyota Camry, costing just under £15,000. The flat has been renovated and modernised with a fitted kitchen and bedroom furniture installed in preparation for his wedding. Fawzan’s living room hosts a 37in high-definition television with surround sound and a Blu-ray player. All this has been provided by the government, including an additional £15,000 for his wedding. And incentives are not limited to financial aid. The government also ensured that Fawzan was reinstated in his old job.

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Further Reading:

In addition to the above article, Shiraz Maher has produced a documentary segment about the care centre that will be broadcast on Wednesday’s Newsnight (BBC2 10.30pm).

Also of interest on the subject:

The Business End
Andrew K. Woods, The Financial Times

Provides a detailed profile of Major General Douglas Stone’s efforts to apply similar principles to the US detention programme in Iraq.

Extremist Reeducation and Rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia
Christopher Boucek, Terrorism Monitor

Rehabilitating the Jihadists
IISS

Singapore’s Muslim Community-Based Initiatives against JI
Muhammad Haniff Hassan, Perspectives on Terrorism

Update (18 July 08):

Indonesia’s Approach to Jihadist Deradicalization
Kirsten E. Schulze, CTC Sentinel vol.1 no.8

Also relevant is the following extract from pp. 94-5 of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategies, Approaches, Results, and Issues for Congress [PDF]:

Detainee Operations

The broad “reconciliation” intent extends to an additional subset of the Iraqi population — those who have been detained by coalition forces.

Accountability. By the beginning of 2008, coalition detainee operations had evolved markedly from the days of the formal occupation, when they were characterized by under-staffing, limited facilities, and — due to ongoing aggressive military operations — a large and quickly growing detainee population. In the early days, it was common to find local communities frustrated first by detentions they perceived to be groundless, and then by the difficulty of determining the location and status of those detained.

One important, gradual change since then, according to coalition officials, is much better accountability, based on the introduction of biometrics, better information-sharing throughout the detention system, and simply better cultural familiarity with the multi-part names commonly used in the region.

“COIN Inside the Wire” Detainee Program. A second major change, introduced by the current MNF-I leadership, is a set of “COIN inside the wire” practices, designed to identify and separate the truly “irreconcilables” from the rest of the detainees.

This new approach is based partly on a better understanding of the detainee population, which apparently includes far more opportunists than ring-leaders — for example, under-employed young men who agree to emplace an IED in exchange for a one-time payment. The opportunism seems to be corroborated by the low recidivism rate — about 9 out of 100.

According to coalition officials, in the past, the coalition used its theater internment facilities simply to “warehouse” detainees. Those facilities effectively served as “jihadist universities” where detainees with extremist agendas could recruit and train followers. Today, the coalition cultivates the majority of the detainee population by providing detainees with voluntary literacy and vocational training, and bringing in imams to offer literacy and religious education. A family visitation program allows about 1,600 visits per week. According to a senior coalition official, “Now detainees themselves point out the trouble-makers.” To support this effort, two Theater Internment Reintegration Facilities are under construction, in Taji and Ramadi, to provide further education and skills training.

Detainee Releases. A third initiative is a planned release of detainees, projected to include a majority of the 23,845 current detainees in the coalition detention facilities. During 2007, the detainee population grew from about 14,000 at the start of the year to 25,000, due to surge operations and better incoming information from Iraqi sources. The release initiative is motivated partly by the overall emphasis on reconciliation, and partly by concerns that the forthcoming “security framework agreement” (see above, “Future Security Framework Agreement”) may place new constraints on coalition detainee operations. The targeted release program draws on the results of “COIN inside the wire” in separating the hardcore cases from one-time offenders. The program makes use of a guarantor system, in which tribal sheikhs and other local leaders may vouch for, and accept responsibility for, the future good conduct of detainees released back to their communities.

The release program calls for giving ground commanders the opportunity to comment on proposed releases. Some commanders have expressed concerns about the practical implications of the program, wondering in particular how jobs will be found for the released detainees, and what will restrain them from low-level, opportunistic criminality in the future if full-employment jobs are not found.

Hassan Butt & Counter-Radicalisation

5 April, 2008

Reuters has a short interview with Hassan Butt, the reformed former British jihadist who spent 10 years recruiting and organising the training of European militants.

Hassan Butt (BBC)

Former radical, Hassan Butt (BBC)

Butt describes how he turned his back on extremism following the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, and how he has since devoted himself to convincing others to do the same, despite death threats from his former peers, and the ongoing threat of prosecution for his past activities.

Since he turned his back on extremism, Butt has become a touchstone for young Muslims looking to escape militant groups.

He has met the government’s counter-terrorism minister to discuss “outreach” to hardened British Islamists — estimated to number at least 2,000 — and taken his ideas into prisons and mosques, where much of the radicalization is said to go on.

Butt says he has helped 15 young men in Manchester alone extract themselves from their extremist ideology, potentially thwarting attacks.

“Of the 15, 11 had been sent for terrorist training. I know because I personally sent these guys to camps,” he says.

With more support and funding, he is convinced he could establish outreach countrywide.

“With everything else in Britain — gangs, drugs, domestic violence — there’s an outreach program. But when it comes to Islamic radicalism, there is no credible program because no one has any idea how to run one properly,” he says.

Read the interview here. For a more in-depth interview with Butt, check out this 2005 piece by Aatish Taseer in Prospect magazine.