Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

28 July, 2008

The bi-monthly International Affairs journal published by Chatham House always includes a featured article which is made available to non-members. In the recently released July-August issue, the featured article is an excellent piece by Thomas Hegghammer, entitled ‘Islamist Violence and Regime Stability in Saudi Arabia‘. In his paper, Hegghammer provides a well-informed analysis of the underlying dynamics that explain one of the more puzzling conundrums in contemporary jihadi studies: the sudden and somewhat belated rise of AQAP in 2003, and its equally sudden collapse as an operational force by late 2004 / early 2005.

As Hegghammer explains:

Apart from isolated incidents, such as the 1979 Mecca mosque siege, the 1995 Riyadh bombing and the 1996 Khobar bombing, the Kingdom had largely been spared the Islamist violence which had ravaged Egypt and Algeria in previous decades. What, then, caused the sudden outbreak of violence? Even more interestingly: why did it happen in 2003 and not before? The near-absence of violence before 2003 is, after all, quite paradoxical in the light of the fact that Saudi militants were so active abroad in the 1990s, either as guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, or as members of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization. These questions highlight a deeper problem, namely that we do not really understand what determines the comings and goings of Islamist violence in Saudi Arabia. This is hardly a purely academic issue—it directly concerns our ability to assess the stability of the world’s leading oil producer and a pillar of US strategy in the Middle East.

Hegghammer discounts a number of popular theories, including ideology-based explanations ‘which see the violence as a product of the religiosity of Saudi society or the inherent extremism of the Wahhabi religious tradition’; and structural approaches that blame strains ‘of a political (e.g. regime oppression), economic (e.g. unemployment) or social (e.g. westernization) kind.’

Drawing upon his analysis of Saudi jihadist texts and videos, and on extensive field work in the Kingdom, Hegghammer argues instead that:

…Saudi Arabia experienced relatively low levels of Sunni Islamist violence in the 1980s and 1990s because, unlike the Arab republics, Saudi Arabia has never been home to a strong socio-revolutionary Islamist community. Saudi jihadism has been driven primarily not by regime discontent but by extreme pan-Islamism, and has thus been geared towards fighting non-Muslims. I further argue that the violence in 2003 was the result not of structural political or economic strain inside the Kingdom, but rather of a momentary conjunction between high operational capability on the part of the local Al-Qaeda network, boosted in numbers and skills by post-2001 returnees from Afghanistan, and a weak Saudi security apparatus. That gap in capability has now closed, and the QAP campaign has petered out.

Read the paper here.

Documents of Note #3

3 May, 2008

The following is the latest in a periodic round-up of reports, papers, monographs, etc likely to be of interest to IRG members and the wider COIN/CT community.

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RAND has published Volume 5 in its Counterinsurgency Study series of monographs, which is co-authored by IRG founder John Mackinlay and Alison Al-Baddawy.

Rethinking Counterinsurgency

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The May-June edition of the US Army Combined Arms Center’s Military Review includes the following piece by Philip Seib:

The Al-Qaeda Media Machine [PDF]

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The Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College has published the following studies:

Precision in the Global War on Terror: Inciting Muslims through the War of Ideas – Dr. Sherifa D. Zuhur [PDF]

Global Climate Change: National Security Implications (ed. Carolyn Pumphrey) [PDF]

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The SWJ Magazine has published interim versions of the following papers:

Social Epidemics and the Human Element of Counterinsurgency – CPT Nils French

Iraqi Non-Lethal Contributions to the Counterinsurgency - CPT Justin Gorkowski

The Counterinsurgency Cliff Notes - CPT Craig Coppock

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The US Department of State has released the latest in its annual series of terrorism assessments:

Country Reports on Terrorism 2007

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The International Crisis Group has released two new reports on Iraq:

Iraq after the Surge I: The New Sunni Landscape

Iraq after the Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy

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The Combined Arms Research Library has made the following documents available. Original date of publication is provided if the document is not new.

Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958 – David Galula, 1963 (2006 Rand edition with foreword by Bruce Hoffman)

War by Other Means: Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for Counterinsurgency - RAND

55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism - Dr. Marvin Cetron and Owen Davies

Defeating Cross Border Insurgencies – Thorsten Joergensen, 2007

Tactical Handbook for Operations Other Than WarUK Ministry of Defence, 1998

Strategic Assessment of the Mau-Mau Rebellion – Robert Eatman, 2007

Chechen Suicide Bombers – Robert W. Kurz and Charles K. Bartles, 2007

The Evolution of Al Qaeda – Sean Wilson, 2007

Globalization and Asymmetrical Warfare – William Hartman, 2002

Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: A Seamless TransitionJohn Hahn, 2004

Asymmetric Warfare: An Historical Perspective – Frankling Miles, 1999

Why Insurgents Fail: Examining Post-World War II Failed Insurgencies Utilizing the Prerequisites of Successful Insurgencies as a Framework – Frank Zimmerman, 2007

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Secrecy News
has made available the following reports from the Congressional Research Service:

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategies, Approaches, Results, and Issues for Congress [PDF]

Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy [PDF]

High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments [PDF]

July 7 Bomber’s Goodbye To Daughter

24 April, 2008

The following is the video played to the jury at Kingston Crown Court today of 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan bidding farewell to his daughter prior to his suicide bomb attack on the London Underground in 2005.

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Politics & Terrorism at RUSI

23 April, 2008

Two Day Conference at RUSI
27-28 May 2008

The following conference is likely to be of interest:

This year RUSI’s Politics and Terrorism Conference will offer a wide-spectrum analysis of the developments in UK counter-terrorism policy since 2000.

Examining the various components of counter-terrorism activity, the conference aims to chart the development of policy and response to events. The objective is to provide delegates with a rich and broad perspective on the multifarious aspects of counter-terrorism policy and the various ways in which these components interact.

Conference topics:

* Central Government strategy and organisation
* Developments in policing and intelligence
* Anti-terrorism legislation
* Community-level challenges
* Military contributions to UK counter-terrorism
* Foreign policy impacts on the threat from terrorism

Confirmed Contributors:

* Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation
* Susan Hemming, Head of Counter Terrorism Division, Crown Prosecution Service
* Professor Paul Rogers, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
* Peter Clarke, Former DAC and Head of SO15 Anti-Terrorist Branch, Metropolitan Police
* Richard Norton-Taylor, Security Editor, The Guardian
* Margaret Gilmore, Writer, Broadcaster, Analyst. Associate Fellow, RUSI
* Professor Jim Waddington, University of Wolverhampton
* Detective Sergeant Ken Kirwin, Lancashire Constabulary Special Branch

For booking information, check the RUSI site here.

Terrorism in the EU – Trends in 2007

8 April, 2008

Europol have just released a very useful report examining annual trends in terrorism in the European Union. Entitled EU Terrorism Situation & Trend Report 2008, it provides a comprehensive but concise analysis of the situation in the EU in 2007. The analysis is based on quantitative data supplied by EU member countries, making it a useful source of citable information.

This short extract, summarising terrorism-related arrests, was interesting:

A total of 1044 individuals were arrested for terrorism-related offences in 2007. This is an increase of 48 percent compared to 2006. France, Spain and the UK have reported the largest number of arrests per member state.

The number of arrested suspects for separatist terrorism has more than doubled in comparison to 2006. This increase is mainly due to the vast increase in the number of arrests in France and Spain. In 2007, Spain saw a seven-fold increase in arrested suspects: from 28 in 2006 to 196 in 2007. France went from 188 people arrested in 2006 to 315 in 2007, an increase of almost 68 percent.

Concerning Islamist terrorism, the number of arrested individuals decreased compared to 2006. In 2007, 201 persons were arrested for Islamist terrorism, compared to 257 in 2006. This decrease can mainly be attributed to a 35 percent decrease in the number of arrested suspects reported by France.

However, the UK reported a 30 percent increase in arrested suspects. Although no affiliation could be assigned, UK authorities estimate that, out of the 203 persons arrested in 2007, the vast majority were in relation to Islamist terrorism.

Get the report here.
(thanks to the anonymous reader for the tip and the link)

Update:

There have been some problems with the Europol link above. To download the report directly from the IRG, click here.

Countering Jihad in Germany

26 March, 2008

The international online edition of Spiegel magazine has an in-depth interview with Ernst Uhrlau, the president of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND. Uhrlau discusses the threat to Germany posed by Al-Qaeda inspired jihadist militants; the role played by homegrown terrorists, and by converts in particular; and the processes by which the marginalisation of Muslims can lead to radicalisation.

AFP/SITE Institute via SPIEGEL

The whole interview is recommended, but the following is an extract:

Uhrlau: Turkish Islam traditionally plays an important role for the domestic intelligence agencies. Milli Görüs, the largest Islamist organization in Germany with about 26,000 members, is under observation. With its extremist worldview, it poses a threat to our constitutional democratic order. But it is not an organization that preaches violence. Germany’s 2.5 million Muslims of Turkish origin come from a secular country that is strongly oriented toward the West, a country where militant fundamentalist movements are relatively insignificant — unlike Lebanon, say, where the radical Hezbollah has many supporters.

SPIEGEL: Does this mean that we should be pleased that the Turkish variety of Islamism is so strong in our country?

Uhrlau: At least we don’t have the kinds of problems that the United Kingdom and France are facing because of their colonial past. The Pakistani Muslims in England and the North African Muslims in France come from countries in which Islamist beliefs and violence play a more important role in parties and movements than in Germany. This is also reflected among the immigrant population.

SPIEGEL: Your counterparts in Paris and London are concerned about so-called home-grown terrorism. Is this something that we also have in Germany?

Uhrlau: The arrests in Oberschledorn are evidence that we also have this phenomenon in Germany. Even though many of the potential terrorists were born and grew up in Europe and do not stand out, they feel marginalized. As a reaction to this, the second or third generation of immigrants reverts much more strongly to its roots. In the process, religious belief becomes decisive. A process of isolation begins that leads to a parallel society. They are convinced that they must defend their own religion and values against the majority Western society.

SPIEGEL: Feeling misunderstood and wanting to defend your faith is one thing, but wanting to killing “infidels” is another.

Uhrlau: A fanatic prepared to commit violence sees himself as part of the ummah, the Muslim community of believers. He perceives any attack on his fellow Muslims — be it by the Israelis in the Gaza Strips or by the Americans in Iraq — as an attack on himself and his religion. Someone like this is an easy target for jihad or al-Qaida propaganda and can be recruited for the holy war against the “infidels.”

SPIEGEL: Did the refusal of the Social Democratic and Green Party coalition government under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to take part in the Iraq war reduce the risk of attack in Germany? Will a stronger German military presence in Afghanistan increase it?

Uhrlau: Jihad is triggered by current political developments. The jihadists do not reward us for having stayed out of the Iraq war. And whether we increase our presence in Afghanistan is irrelevant for the Islamists. As far as they are concerned, Germany is already not a neutral country. We are on the side of the hated Americans and we traditionally support Israel, which they consider a “Zionist entity.”

SPIEGEL: How large is the army of jihadists in Germany?

Uhrlau: We estimate that there are a few hundred extremists who are prepared to commit acts of violence. Up to 700 people are under various levels of observation by German intelligence and security agencies. Most of them live in our midst. A small proportion of these people, however, stand out by being frequent travelers. We currently know that more than a dozen people, including converts, have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years, where they seek contact with like-minded people.

SPIEGEL: So you simply allow these potential terrorists to go about their business?

Uhrlau: As long as there is no concrete evidence that they are making preparations for attacks, we have no other choice. But we do attempt to monitor their movements and determine their destinations. Not all of them are potential bombers — some are traveling as couriers. The Islamists are very familiar with the technical possibilities which the intelligence agencies have at their disposal. Hence important messages are delivered in person.

SPIEGEL: Can you prove direct contacts to al-Qaida?

Uhrlau: We follow them into the inaccessible tribal areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan …

SPIEGEL: … where al-Qaida’s terrorist training camps are located …

Uhrlau: … and we try to find out what they are doing there and with whom they are meeting. A lot of information is due to intensive cooperation with intelligence agencies in countries through which these suspects pass on their way to the Hindu Kush region. Some are briefly detained and questioned for other offences on their way back. But the fact that we are on their tail doesn’t really deter them. They continue undaunted. This doesn’t necessarily have to lead to the construction of a bomb. Some specialize in propaganda, in recruiting other activists or in conveying information.

Read the full interview here.

From 9/11 to 7/7: Global Terrorism Today and the Challenges of Tomorrow

15 March, 2008

Presentation at Chatham House
7 April 2008, 13:30 to 14:30

The Director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller III, is talking at Chatham House on 7 April on the subject of the evolving nature of the terrorist threat in the West:

Since 11 September 2001 when Al-Qaeda launched a massive attack on US targets from its base in Afghanistan, terrorists have executed attacks around the world, including the bombing of the London Underground and bus system in July 2005. Terrorist tactics continue to evolve and expand in Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, as well as homegrown terrorist cells, through foreign training camps and internet recruitment. With the United States and United Kingdom remaining prime targets, the speaker will discuss the future implications of the terrorist threat, and how the global community must work together to combat it.

For more information on this members-only event, and to register, click here.

Update:

Chatham House are now putting videos of some events online at FORA.tv, so if you can’t attend their events in person it is worth keeping an eye on this page.


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