Radical Islamic Terrorism: Evolving And Enduring Threat

Radical Islamic Terrorism
by Joseph A. Warrick

Journal Article | March 3, 2014 – 6:19am

http://smallwarsjournal.com/ jrnl/art/radical-islamic- terrorism

Radical Islamic Terrorism: An Evolving and Enduring Threat

Joseph A. Warrick

“Our Prophet ordered us to Fight you till you worship Allah alone or pay us the Jizyah tribute tax in submission. Our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says: ‘Whoever amongst us is killed as a syahid shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever survives shall become your master.” (Sahih Bukhari 4:53:386)

Introduction

For many, 11 September 2001, was their first exposure to terrorism, however, terrorism is not a new threat for our government, the IC and the Special Operations Community. Terrorism, most definitely, Radical Islamic Terrorism has been a priority for decades. Terrorism by its very nature is a dynamic enterprise. Terrorist tactics, ideology and organization will constantly morph and evolve as they continue to adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves. To be effective, a Counterterrorism (CT) Strategy must first and foremost accurately define threats. Sun Tzu opines that defining threat is paramount to successful operations. By properly identifying the actual threat; we can then focus on effectively countering their efforts or conducting operations to find them, fix them and finish them.

Currently the face of terrorism is rapidly evolving. No longer does al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization pose the major threat to the globe. Since 9/11, AQ the organization has been contained, yet the ideology of AQ has given birth to AQ the social movement. It is AQ the social movement which continues to spread the ideology of AQ. As the ideology spreads it inspires those who hold the same desires as al’ Qaeda the organization to conduct acts of violence based on the ideological teachings of AQ. And although AQ may be contained, AQ the social movement has grown dramatically. We see the rise of al ‘Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al ‘Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and the increase of individuals or small groups (a leaderless Jihad) which adhere to and enact upon the ideology of AQ.

If any organized terrorist group poses a major threat to the United States it would be Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). As AQ the organization was facing retribution for its attacks against the United States, LeT was quickly gaining in size and capital to a level which AQ the organization could have only dreamt. With its support from the Pakistani Army and ISI, LeT has quietly gone about the business of enacting Pakistan’s wishes upon India while building its own vision of a global caliphate. In fact, LeT leads all other terrorist organizations in its recruitment and use of clean skins. In his March 2010 testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, Ashley J. Tellis stated, “In my judgment, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) today remains-after al-Qaeda-the most important terrorist group of global reach operating from South Asia. Like al-Qaeda, LeT too has a universalist ideology focused on establishing a universal Islamic Caliphate through the instrument of jihad, but unlike al-Qaeda, which is truly a stateless terrorist organization, LeT remains primarily Pakistani in its composition, uses Pakistani territory as its primary base of operation, and continues to be supported extensively by the Pakistani state, especially the Pakistani Army and its Directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).”(Tellis, 2010) With its capital, organization, and stated hatred of the U.S., LeT surely presents a future challenge to the U.S.

On the African continent and in the Arabian Peninsula we see the rise of AQIM, AQAP and Al Shabaab. All of these organizations are affiliates and adherents of AQ. Each organization conducts operations in their respective Areas of Operation (AO) to not only press their own organizational goals, but to also further the ideology of AQ in the formation of a Global Caliphate and the reclaiming of Muslim lands. Each organization represents a threat to the U.S. in its own way but all bring with them the over-arching ideology of AQ.

Across the globe, Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) groups continue to grow in power, influence, and resources. However, over the past decade, extensive International Assess­ment and Strategy Center (IASC) field research docu­mented the following developments: (1) the changing nature of TOC organizations in Latin America and West Africa; (2) the growing hybrid nature of crimi­nal and terrorist groups; (3) the alliances with regional and extra-regional state and nonstate actors; and, (4) the growing involvement of the self-proclaimed Bo­livarian states of Latin America whose governments sanctioned criminal activities as part of coherent, mul­tistate instruments of statecraft. (Farah, 2012, iii) First and foremost, this nexus is producing a new type of warfare where globalization allows drugs, people, money and weapons to flow freely across international boundaries. A type of warfare where a new type of violent conflict will challenge our standing “conventional” and “unconventional” definitions. In many instances this scenario has resulted in criminal organizations which are better resourced and better trained than the law enforcement apparatus which is in place to counter their efforts (Mexico for example)

Additionally we see the growth in recruiting and utilization of so called “clean skins”; individuals with no ties to terrorist organizations. In many cases these individuals are citizens of target countries of terrorist. This allows them free access to target sets within the target country without the high risk infiltration of foreign jihadist. Combine these individuals with the leaderless jihad concept and you have a problem set for security officials which truly is analogous to “finding a needle in a haystack”.

Underneath this all is the driving ideology of radical Islamist or Jihadist. The Jihadist movement continues to rally members to its cause and continues to hold as the predominant threat to the U.S. As Phares explains, the Jihadist are comprised mainly of Salafist and Khumeinist who seek the destruction of the U.S., thus allowing them to focus on replacing apostate regimes within the Middle East with radical Islamic governments. This will then bring about the rise of a Global caliphate which would reject international law and opposing Religions.

Research Question

Through research and the collection of evidence, this paper intends to predict the future threat which will be faced from terrorism. Specifically, “What threats will we face from terrorism in the future? How will terrorist evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves?”

Thesis Statement

Through qualitative research methods it is the following which this paper proposes to answer: What threats will we face from terrorism in the future? How will terrorist evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves? The thesis statement for this effort is: As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replace by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.

Literature Review

In “55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism”, Cetron and Owens have created a work which is part of an ongoing study of forces changing the world, specifically in the realm of national security and intelligence. This particular volume, focused on the top 55 trends now shaping the future of terrorism. In an over-arching look, the document states that Islamic terrorism will continue to grow; that western lands, the United States, Britain and France will be at the most risk for acts of terrorism; that future attacks will combine mass bloodshed and economic impact. Specifically the article asserts that Islamic terrorism will continue to grow; that Islamic terrorist will gain access to WMD, specifically nuclear weapons; that Islamic terrorist will gain legitimacy, either through a natural maturation process or by taking power of a complete country. What this effort does not accomplish is the description of detailed tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) of the terrorist threat we will face. The major contribution of this work is the support it provides to the main aspect of the proposed Thesis Statement of this research: “As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism.”

Douglas Farah’s article provides detailed information on the emergence of new hybrid transnational criminal and terrorist franchises in Latin America which pose a serious threat to the United States. Primarily, the alliance between Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) and Islamic terrorist. These alliances currently span state and non-state actors and will operate under a broad state protection allowing them to undermine democratic governance, sovereignty, growth, trade and stability.(Farah, 2012, vii) These activities will yield billions of dollars in illicit revenues every year in the region, and trillions globally. The Leaders of these organizations share a publicly articulated doctrine to employ asymmetric warfare against the United States and its allies that explicitly endorses the use of WMD as a legitimate tactic.(Farah, 2012, vii) The main push behind this alliance is Iran (a known state sponsor of Hezbollah) and the Bolivarian alliance. Illicit forces in Latin America have begun using tactical operations centers as a means of furthering their view of statecraft. This brings new elements to the “dangerous spaces” where nonstate actors intersect with regions characterized by weak sovereignty and alternative governance systems.(Farah, 2012, viii) This new dynamic fundamentally dissolves the historical divide between TOC and terrorism and alters the structure underpinning global order. This work demonstrates how terrorist are already adapting to our CT efforts by pairing with TOC’s for increased infrastructure along with placement and access. The underlying threat here is the foothold which terrorist are now solidifying in countries not only within our hemisphere but along our very borders.

“The Strategic Challenge of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab” provides an overview of Al Shabaab, its origins, ideology and strategic outlook. Prior to September 2013, Al Shabaab had been limited to operations within Somalia. Even though its ideology and strategic outlook clearly outlines a desire for a global caliphate, Al Shabaab had been limited by its struggles with Ethiopian and U.S. forces within Somalia. Increasing the threat to the U.S. is the large number of Americans who have traveled to Somalia for training. Individuals linked to Al Shabaab represent a serious domestic threat to the U.S. and include the U.S.’s first successful suicide bomber. Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized American citizen, was one of Al Shabaab’s suicide bombers in its October 2008 attacks in northern Somalia.(Gartenstein-Ross, 2009) Al Shabaab is openly linked with AQ and has been the subject of several videos produced by various AQ leaders. Within Somalia, Al Shabaab represents a serious threat to stability with its military experience and capability, its ability to hold ground and its ability to quickly establish governments under Shari’a law in areas it holds. Its large number of American citizens who support Al Shabaab make it a serious and growing threat to the U.S. on the domestic and international scene. Al Shabaab’s ties to AQ, its radical Islamic ideology, its military might and its growing number of American citizens support the proposed thesis of this research effort.

“Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: the evolution from Algerian Islamism to transnational terror”provides a historical perspective on Islamic terrorism in Algeria. It explains how The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) was rebranded and renamed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This began on September 11th, 2006, when Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a videotaped statement calling for the liberation of the former Muslim lands in North Africa. Zawahiri announced that GSPC had joined AQ and that the Islamic Maghreb would be a priority for global jihad.(Gray & Stockham, 2008) Following this announcement the GSPC changed its name to AQIM and fully integrated into AQ proper. This integration was confirmed by the public statements of AQIM’s leader to AQ, “Use us to strike wherever you will, and you will never find in us anything but compliance and obedience”(Gray & Stockham, 2008) AQIM’s near term goals are to strengthen international ties and carry out attacks in North Africa. (Gray & Stockham, 2008) With its long term goals being the unification of Islamist movements across North Africa in order to build local conditions that engender terrorism and recruit followers to work toward the establishment of a Caliphate throughout the Muslim world.(Gray & Stockham, 2008) The hope is that disperse Islamic groups in Northern Africa will rally to AQIM, thus strengthening AQIM and increasing its base of influence and operations. AQIM has quickly demonstrated itself as an effective organization, capable of attacking hard targets on a large scale. AQIM quickly embarked upon a campaign to radicalize displaced Muslims originally from the Maghreb who now reside in Europe and the U.S. via a robust propaganda campaign via the internet. The rise of AQIM as an organization which supports the ideology of the original AQ along with its inherent regional goals is completely in line with the proposed thesis for this research effort.

Hoffman’s “Al Qaeda, Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities: An Assessment” assesses (then) current trends in terrorism and attempts to predict future potentialities of terrorism. Hoffman explains that we are now (or were then) in a transitional state due to AQ being forced to adapt to our evolving CT efforts. He predicted that during this time frame we will see a continuation of attacks against low level soft targets. He predicts that many local movements will be surreptitiously co-opted by AQ and their will be renewed efforts to increase recruitment of Muslims living within Islamic communities inside AQ’s target countries. Hoffman also states that, “Increasingly, lone individuals with no connection with or formal ties to established or identifiable terrorist organizations are rising up to engage in violence. These individuals are often inspired or motivated by some larger political movement that they are not actually a part of, but nonetheless draw spiritual and emotional sustenance and support from. Indeed, over the past 10 years or so-with the exception of the two World Trade Center attacks and that on the Pentagon-all of the most significant terrorist incidents that occurred in the United States were perpetrated either by a lone individual or very tight two- or three-man conspiratorial cells.”(Hoffman, 2002) Hoffman’s statements concerning lone individuals with no connections to a terrorist organization conducting acts of violence due to being inspired by a larger movement seems to support Sageman’s words in regards to AQ the social movement and the rise of leaderless jihad. Both support the thesis statement for this research effort.

In its first paragraph, “In Focus: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Yemen Uprisings” supports the thesis of this research effort as it states that after the death of bin Laden, AQ became a decentralized global movement in which groups are linked by a shared ideology vice a structured organizational hierarchy.(Ng, 2011) Although AQAP has established a strong foothold in Yemen, it has not been able to highjack the uprisings within Yemen which are calling for the resignation of Yemen’s President. The democratic and secular theme of the political uprising within Yemen does not provide much maneuver room for AQAP. However, AQAP continues to maintain its presence, slowly building support and playing an effective propaganda campaign in order to set itself in a good position if the government falls and unrest seizes the day. While at the same time, AQAP continues with an effective insurgency against the Yemeni government and its security forces. On the international front, AQAP continues to plan and attempt operations against the U.S. even after failed attempts in 2009 and 2010. The author goes on to list AQAP is the prime threat (from what once was AQ) to the U.S. Ng’s article provides information which supports two elements of the thesis statement of this research effort. First, that the main threat to the U.S. will continue to come from Islamic terrorist and second, that AQ the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replaced by aspects of the social movement which is AQ.

“The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America” paints a bleak and disturbing picture of Hezbollah’s growth within Central and South America and its increasing ties with Transnational Organized Crime (TOC). For the last several years Hezbollah and Iran have been expanding their operations in Central and South America. Hezbollah’s presence in this region began in the 1980’s but has recently been facilitated by Hugo Chavez and other anti-American governments in South America. Due to this access, Hezbollah now has a strong presence within the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America. The TBA is a predominantly lawless area in vicinity of the converging borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. It is estimated that Hezbollah now has numerous cells which hold approximately 460 operatives. Hezbollah utilizes the TBA as a safe haven for fundraising, money laundering, recruitment, training, plotting, and other terrorist-related activities.(Noriega & Cardenas, 2011) Hezbollah is partnering with TOC’s for the infrastructure which organized criminal organizations have at their disposal. This is especially applicable in regards to the smuggling of arms or personnel. Crossing international borders or entering target countries can be difficult for international terrorist organizations. Criminal organizations with sophisticated human smuggling architecture can facilitate the infiltration terrorist operatives with far less risk of exposure than attempting to enter the U.S. via traditional methods. In return the criminal organization obtains the fees for this service which in turn generates profit. Hezbollah, however, does not seem content to simply operate within the TBA, Hezbollah now seems to have its sights set on Mexico in order to exploit its extremely porous border with the U.S. and to further expand its relations with TOC’s within the region. Evidence exists to support the fact that Hezbollah is sharing its terrorist experiences and techniques with Mexican drug cartels along the US border. The result of this partnership is criminal organizations which are better resourced and better trained than the law enforcement apparatus which is in place to counter their efforts and Hezbollah cells which are poised to infiltrate the U.S. in order to conduct operations. But Chavez did more than simply provide Hezbollah access to the Region. It seems he also was assisting them with criminal activities of their own. In 2011, a well-known Venezuelan drug lord confirmed that Hezbollah is operating cocaine labs in Venezuela with the protection of the country’s government.(Noriega & Cardenas, 2011) In addition, Chávez brokered meetings on Iran’s behalf with other leaders in the region; Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Both men are members of the Chávez sponsored Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). (Noriega & Cardenas, 2011) Both have also established alliances networks with TOC’s. This will allow Hezbollah increased safe havens and increased network infrastructure within the region. It is clear that Hezbollah now has “official” support from multiple governments within the Region. And this, as Noriega and Cardenas quote Doug Farah creates a serious issue for the U.S.; “The nature of the threat to the United States then is not merely the drugs in the criminal pipelines and multiple transnational criminal activities that directly affect us every day. It is the establishment of political and financial influence and military presence by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that enjoys the state sponsorship of Iran and, to a lesser degree, Syria, in concert with states that are hospitable to its movements and that are replicating its model, particularly south of the border.” (Noriega & Cardenas, 2011) This expansion of Hezbollah into Central and South America and its ventures with TOC support the stated thesis of this research effort and demonstrate how terrorist organizations are adapting to increased security at traditional infiltration locations by working with TOC’s in order to smuggle terrorist into the country.

Walid Phares book, “The Confrontation; Winning the War Against Future Jihad”, is his third book in an effort educate the West on the threat of Jihadist. In his first book, Phares explains the historical evolution of the Jihadi movements and strategies which they utilize against America and the West. Phares second book explains how the Jihadists delayed the Western counter offensive for decades until 9/11. In this, his third book, (as the name implies) Phares proposes strategies and policies to win the confrontation against Jihadist movements. Early on, Phares defines the current conflict as being “waged by the global jihadists; targeted at civil societies and human rights around the world; aimed at world domination; and threatening international peace and security.”(Phares, 2008) Phares argues that if we truly want to win this conflict that “you must define the threat and the enemy” and that we must begin to “identify the actual enemy by referring to its ideology and goals.”(Phares, 2008) Phares defines the two major pillars of the jihadist movement are the Salafist and Khumeinist who seek “the downfall of twenty one Arab states and more than fifty Muslim governments, hoping to replace them with a caliphate that would reject international law and revive a new conquest of the lands outside of the caliphate (the remainder of the world).” (Phares, 2008) “The Confrontation” provides more support to the thesis for this research effort as it emphasizes the world will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism.

Marc Sageman’s “Leaderless Jihad” attempts to explain how people evolve into terrorist by utilizing a process that relies on statistical techniques rather than anecdotes or speculation . This work focuses on “global Islamist terrorism” with a detailed discussion and explanation of al’ Qaeda the Social Movement. Sageman attempts to demonstrate how the ideology and actions of al ‘Qaeda have and continue to inspire like-minded individuals who are not members of any specific organization; but who desire to commit acts of violence based on the ideology of al’ Qaeda. Sageman also explains, that although, since 9/11, al’ Qaeda the organization has been predominantly contained, al’ Qaeda the Social Movement has grown dramatically. “Leaderless Jihad” provides an in-depth explanation of the radical Islamic ideology of al’ Qaeda and how it fits into current radical Islamic terrorist beliefs. This work provides in depth information on the ideology of al’ Qaeda the organization and al’ Qaeda the social movement and how they have both assisted with the current Jihadist movement. More importantly to Sageman is how they have contributed to the rise of leaderless Jihad and the implications of this to the future of terrorism. Sageman’s work supports this research effort as it explains the transition from AQ the organization to AQ the movement and the continued increase in actions accomplished by a leaderless jihad.

Scott Stewart’s “Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft” explains that terrorism is constantly evolving and adapting due to countermeasures against terrorism, technology and target sets. The article asserts that “Terrorism is an enduring reality”.(Scott, 2012) and a tactic which will always be utilized by militant actors who confront militarily superior enemies. Scott predicts that increased security efforts involving international travel and advances in identification technologies will force terrorist to search for “clean skin” operatives; individuals who are unknown to security services and who have the ability to travel using legitimate documents or who do not need to travel due to being “in place” in the target area due to their citizenship or nationality. Efforts at impeding or freezing terrorist funding is forcing terrorist to the sale of narcotics and other criminal activity. This has also lead to a teaming of efforts between terrorist and Transnational Organized Crime (TOC). In light of these factors, the author predicts that future terrorist attacks will be more locally focused or committed by clean skin terrorist. The author also opines that a transition to soft targets may mean an increase in targeting of hotels, business and diplomatic missions. “Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft” provides support to this research efforts thesis statement as it describes the increase of home grown terrorism through individuals referred to as “clean skins” and the increased ties of terrorism with TOC.

“The Menace That is Lashkar-e-Taiba” discusses the origins and ideology of LeT and its spectacular coordinated bombing and shooting attacks in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. Explains that LeT was established in 1987 at a time when Pakistan was in the throes of Islamic ferment. Tellis asserts that LeT has access to a steady supply of volunteers, funding, and-most important of all-concerted state support. He details LeT’s long history of support from the ISI, in part due to LeT’s actions in India. Tellis also explains that even though considered by many to be a terrorist group with only regional aspirations that LeT seeks, above anything else, the establishment of a universal caliphate with special emphasis on the recovery of all lands that were once under Muslim rule.(Tellis, 2012) But LeT’s desires do not stop there; the leader of LeT, has openly declared that LeT intends to plant the flag of Islam in Washington and Tel Aviv as well as New Delhi.(Tellis, 2012) According to Tellis, Indian intelligence currently estimates that LeT has operatives in 21 countries worldwide in order to take part in the “perpetual jihad against the infidels”. (Tellis, 2012) The bottom line of Tellis’s work is this: LeT is a serious threat to the U.S. LeT has global reach, “exhibits all the ideological animus, financial and material capabilities, motivation, and ruthlessness required to attack those even further afield that it believes are its enemies because of their adherence to different faiths or their residence in secular, liberal-democratic states.” (Tellis, 2012) “The Menace That is Lashkar-e-Taiba” supports the thesis of this work as it continues to predict that Islamic based terrorism will continue to be a threat to the west and that LeT may quite possibly be the future standard bearer of that threat.

The “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” is the base document for the U.S. Governments current “unclassified” National Strategy for Counterterrorism. As such it is the basis of the Nation’s actions to counter terrorist efforts.

In “Terrorism and the Shape of Things to Come” the authors attempt to define the future of terrorism by investigating terrorism as a possible indicator of international political trends in accordance with the methodologies utilized in Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. According to the authors, Huntington sees a future alliance between Chinese and Islamic civilizations. Huntington also thinks that Islamic civilizations is most prone to violent conflict and that Western civilization, for reasons having to do with its global impact and the animosity this generates, is the most likely object of inter-civilizational attacks.(Weinberg & Eubank, 2002) According to evidence depicted in this work the principal perpetrators of inter-civilizational terrorism from 1968 to 1997, have been groups and individuals drawn from Islamic civilizations. Surprisingly enough, even considering the amount of rhetoric we hear from Islamic terrorist groups concerning Israel, from 1968 to 1979 the average number of attacks on Israel and the United States are extremely close, with United States having an average of 29.2 attacks and Israel having an average of 29.3 attacks over that time frame. But if you look at the time from of 1980 to 1997 the scales tip dramatically. During this timeframe the United States average 40.06 attacks and Israel averaged 8.95 attacks.(Weinberg & Eubank, 2002) These statistics not only beg the question of is Israel truly the main target of Islamic terrorist or is it the U.S.? Other significant conclusions drawn from the evidence presented in this work is that the principal perpetrators of inter-civilizational terrorism have been groups of individuals draw from Islamic civilization. The final assessment from this work is that acts of inter-civilizational terrorism will continue to be committed by groups of individuals drawn from Islamic civilization and that the U.S. and the West will continue to be their main target. Weinberg and Eubank support a portion of the thesis statement of this research effort as they profess that the predominant perpetrators of terror in the future will continue to be drawn from Islamic civilizations. However, they differ from the thesis in their statements concerning future cooperative efforts between Islam and China.

The Euronews article on Al Shabaab’s recent attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya provides a brief history of Al Shabaab and provides an in-depth look into the operation itself. While the Euronews anchor attempts to paint the attack as a warning to Westerners, Jane’s Security Analyst, Valentina Soria states the success of the attack is due more so to Kenyan and Western Security forces underestimating Al Shabaab in both manpower and technical capabilities.(Euronews, 2013) The article then goes on to discuss Al Shabaab’s focused efforts to recruit individuals from the Somalia diasporas in the U.S., Britain, and other Western Nations. Soria credits Al Shabaabs effective propaganda strategy and use of the Internet as the driving force behind the successes in this effort. The article demonstrates how Al Shabaab is expanding its efforts out of Somalia and into countries within the region and how even when seeming to be beaten in Somalia, Al Shabaab remains a viable threat. Combine Al Shabaab’s ideology, its successful recruitment program targeting westerners and its desire to reach beyond Somalia to further its ideology and you have a credible threat and a chain of information which supports the stated thesis of this effort.

Methodology and Research Strategy

This paper presents a predictive analysis of the threat which we will face from terrorism by discussing how terrorist organizations evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves. The proposed research methodology is to utilize qualitative research through the use of articles, papers, official documents and analysis of other archival, administrative data. In order to carry out this study, a review of academic literature and media reports was conducted. A large portion of the data collected from scholarly sources is slightly outdated, being produced prior to 2010. As such, much of the information collected will be taken from secondary academic literature and media reports due to the difficulty in obtaining primary source material.

The working hypothesis for this research is, “As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replaced by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.”

Findings and Analysis

The purpose of this research effort is to demonstrate that due to terrorist evolving and adapting to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves, the threat posed by terrorist will also evolve and alter the current threat we face. Scott Stewart explains that terrorism is constantly evolving and adapting due to countermeasures against terrorism, technology and target sets. He asserts that “Terrorism is an enduring reality”(Scott, 2012) and a tactic which will always be utilized by militant actors who confront militarily superior enemies. Through analysis of the evidence collected, this paper was to confirm or deny the following thesis statement: As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replace by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.

The evidence is fairly clear that Radical Islamic terrorist ideology will continue to be the primary driver of terrorist organizations which will present the most significant threat to the U.S., its citizens and its interest in the future. In fact, some predict that radical Islamic terrorism will continue to grow and that the United States, Britain and France will be at the most risk for acts of terrorism conducted by these factions. Walid Phares states that the radical Islamist movement is spearheaded by Salafist and Khumeinist who seek “the downfall of twenty one Arab states and more than fifty Muslim governments, hoping to replace them with a caliphate that would reject international law and revive a new conquest of the lands outside of the caliphate (the remainder of the world).” (Phares, 2008) Since 9/11, the CT efforts of the U.S. and its allies have left AQ the organization predominantly contained, yet it is the ideology of AQ and AQ the social movement which has continued to flourish; providing like-minded individuals and organizations with a driving focus by which to focus their efforts toward. Aaron NG states that after the death of bin Laden, AQ became a decentralized global movement in which groups are linked by a shared ideology vice a structured organizational hierarchy.(Ng, 2011) This phenomenon has given rise to or emboldened organizations like AQIM, AQAP, and Al Shabaab, while at the same time emboldening individuals not affiliated with any organizations to undertake a leaderless Jihad.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) was rebranded and renamed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) shortly after Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a videotaped statement on September 11th, 2006 , calling for the liberation of the former Muslim lands in North Africa and announcing that GSPC had joined AQ and that the Islamic Maghreb would be a priority for global jihad.(Gray & Stockham, 2008) AQIM’s near term goals are to strengthen international ties and carry out attacks in North Africa. (Gray & Stockham, 2008) AQIM’s long term goals seem to shoe horn into AQ’s long term goals; being the unification of Islamist movements across North Africa in order to build local conditions that engender terrorism and recruit followers to work toward the establishment of a Caliphate throughout the Muslim world.(Gray & Stockham, 2008) AQIM has demonstrated itself as an effective organization, capable of attacking hard targets on a large scale. AQIM also quickly embarked upon a campaign to radicalize displaced Muslims originally from the Maghreb who now reside in Europe and the U.S. via a robust propaganda campaign via the internet. This not only provides AQIM recruits to operate with the Maghreb but also feasibly to conduct acts in the U.S. and Europe in the name of AQIM.

AQAP has established a strong foothold in Yemen, but is finding difficulty in becoming the prime force behind the uprisings within Yemen which are calling for the resignation of Yemen’s President. This has not impacted AQAP’s ability to maintain its presence, slowly building support and playing an effective propaganda campaign in order to set itself in a good position if the government falls and unrest seizes the day. Simultaneously, AQAP has conducted an effective insurgency against the Yemeni government and its security forces. On the international front, AQAP continues to plan and attempt operations against the U.S. even after failed attempts in 2009 and 2010. AQAP will continue its efforts within Yemen, proving to be a destabilizing force while at the same time working towards the long term goals of AQ the movement; forcing the U.S. out of the Region and the establishment of a global Caliphate.

Until recently, Al Shabaab had been limited to operations within Somalia. Its attack on a shopping mall in Kenya however, demonstrates the organizations ability to conduct operations outside of Somalia even as those who are fighting them in Somalia feel they are weakened and contained. Al Shabaab’s ideology and strategic outlook outlines a desire for a global caliphate, but it seemed to have been limited by its struggles with Ethiopian and U.S. forces within Somalia. Within Somalia, Al Shabaab continues to represent a serious threat to stability with its military experience and capability, its ability to hold ground and its ability to quickly establish governments under Shari’a law in areas it holds. What makes Al Shabaab a threat to the U.S. is its large number of Americans who have traveled to Somalia for training. Al Shabaab has focused efforts to recruit individuals from the Somalia diasporas in the U.S., Britain, and other Western Nations via an effective propaganda strategy and use of the Internet. Individuals linked to Al Shabaab represent a serious domestic threat to the U.S. and include the U.S.’s first successful suicide bomber. Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized American citizen, was one of Al Shabaab’s suicide bombers in its October 2008 attacks in northern Somalia.(Gartenstein-Ross, 2009) Al Shabaab is openly linked with AQ and has been the subject of several videos produced by various AQ leaders. Combine Al Shabaab’s ideology, its successful recruitment program targeting westerners and its desire to reach beyond Somalia to further its ideology and you have a credible threat to the U.S.

In addition to the organizations which belong to AQ the Social Movement, other threats face the U.S. in the future. Hezbollah, LeT and homegrown terrorist/leaderless Jihad lead the list of threats outside of AQ the Social Movement; each presenting its own unique challenge to our national security. Over the last several years Hezbollah has undergone rapid growth within Central and South America and is increasing ties with Transnational Organized Crime (TOC). The main push behind this alliance is Iran (a known state sponsor of Hezbollah) and the Bolivarian alliance, particularly Hugo Chavez and other anti-American governments in South America. Hezbollah has a particularly strong presence within the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America. The TBA is a predominantly lawless area in vicinity of the converging borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. It is estimated that Hezbollah now has numerous cells which hold approximately 460 operatives. Hezbollah utilizes the TBA as a safe haven for fundraising, money laundering, recruitment, training, plotting, and other terrorist-related activities.(Noriega & Cardenas, 2011) Hezbollah is not limiting its efforts to the TBA, however, but is expanding its presence into Mexico where it is working with Mexican drug cartels in order to establish a foot hold and partnership near the U.S. border. In addition to Hezbollah, LeT presents another unique challenge to both U.S. and International Security. LeT not only has the capital, capacity and ideology to strike the U.S. but it has the power to push two regional Nuclear powers to the brink of, if not to, nuclear war. Since 2011, while other Islamic terrorist groups were being degraded by International CT efforts, LeT has seen an unprecedented growth in capital and capacity. Further adding to this threat is that LeT currently leads all other terrorist groups with its efforts to recruit clean skin individuals. Not only is LeT recruiting individuals with clean skins, but it is utilizing them to conduct pre-operational surveillance and target development. This is evident in the case of David Headley, an American citizen who conducted pre-operational planning for targets attacked in Mumbai in 2008 and with an Australian citizen who was caught while conducting pre-operational surveillance of nuclear facilities within Australia. Although many consider LeT to be a terrorist group with only regional aspirations; above anything else LeT seeks the establishment of a universal caliphate with special emphasis on the recovery of all lands that were once under Muslim rule.(Tellis, 2012) But LeT’s desires do not stop there; the leader of LeT, has openly declared that LeT intends to plant the flag of Islam in Washington and Tel Aviv as well as New Delhi.(Tellis, 2012) The following threat covers two different areas. Homegrown/leaderless jihad and those referred to as clean skins. Clean Skin terrorist can be either homegrown, leaderless or members of a group. As LeT recruits those with clean skins, or those who have no links to terrorist and are not from countries tied to terrorist, so too are those who have become self-radicalized or who are simply inspired by terrorism fall into these categories. When not part of a known terrorist group these individuals represent what is referred to as leaderless jihad. Meaning they have no organizational structure, no affiliation with terrorist but have chosen to embark upon terrorism on their own. Sometimes individually or as part of a small group. Bruce Hoffman states, “Increasingly, lone individuals with no connection with or formal ties to established or identifiable terrorist organizations are rising up to engage in violence. These individuals are often inspired or motivated by some larger political movement that they are not actually a part of, but nonetheless draw spiritual and emotional sustenance and support from. Indeed, over the past 10 years or so-with the exception of the two World Trade Center attacks and that on the Pentagon-all of the most significant terrorist incidents that occurred in the United States were perpetrated either by a lone individual or very tight two- or three-man conspiratorial cells.”(Hoffman, 2002) A prime example of a leaderless jihad and home grown terrorism would be the individuals who conducted the Boston Marathon Bombings. These individuals, one self-radicalized and the other seemingly radicalized by his older brother represent a new threat which resides underneath the radar of national and international intelligence services until after they have committed an attack. This presents unique challenges to the intelligence and security apparatus of the target country as there is usually very little foreknowledge or warning of attacks committed by these individuals.

Conclusion

The questions this research attempted to answer were as follows: “What threats will we face from terrorism in the future? How will terrorist evolve and adapt to target set availability, counterterrorist tactics and strategies and the capabilities of the organizations themselves?” Unfortunately, it is clear that terrorism is here to stay; it is a tactic which will always be utilized by militant actors who confront militarily superior enemies. According to Weinberg & Eubank, the principal perpetrators of inter-civilizational terrorism from 1968 to 1997, have been groups and individuals drawn from Islamic civilizations.(Weinberg & Eubank, 2002) This trend seems to be in line to continue as the analysis of the information gathered seems to support that the primary terrorist threat the U.S. will face in the future will continue to be from those who are motivated by an Islamic fundamentalist ideology. Jihadist in the form of Salafist and Khumeinist who’s main goal is the establishment of a Global Caliphate via the overthrow of Regimes which they feel are nothing more than apostates and by forcing the U.S. out of the Region. Yet this ideology does not seem to simply stop at that end. It seems they desire a World where Radical Islam rules the day, where everyone is subject to and under Sharia Law, where Islam is THE Religion and the rule is convert or die.

As the international community continues its efforts against terrorism, the terrorist are forced to adapt, evolve and develop new TTP’s in order to survive. This evolution is shifting away from AQ sitting as the major threat to the U.S. and the World, but being replaced by adherents of the ideology of AQ , or as it this is known, AQ the social movement. This will bring about the rise of new organizations, and the threat of leaderless jihad. Leaderless Jihad refers to individuals or small groups who have no organizational structure or affiliation, yet due to their belief in the Jihadist mind set, have chosen to commit acts of terrorism. Compounding this threat is that these individuals are not necessarily from outside of our borders. Those who support this mind set can also come in the form of U.S. citizens who choose to commit these acts of their own accord or by joining an established organization. The second and third order effects of these individuals joining established organizations, is the evolution of terrorist with clean skins. These individuals are “clean” in the fact that they are not from a country known for producing radicalized individuals, they have no ties to terrorist groups and due to citizenship have unfettered access to targets in their home countries.

As to the stated hypothesis of this research effort; “As the terrorist threat to our Nation evolves, we will continue to face radical Islamist as the major threat from terrorism; Al ‘Qaeda (AQ) the organization will cease being the primary threat and will be replace by aspects of the social movement which is AQ, Hezbollah, LeT, homegrown terrorist and leaderless Jihad.” The information gathered does seem to provide a definitive answer in support of the stated hypothesis. As previously stated, the information gathered seems to support that the primary terrorist threat the U.S. will face in the future will continue to be from those who are motivated by an Islamic fundamentalist ideology. AQ the organization has been on the decline since 9/11 yet AQ the social movement is increasing rapidly and giving rise, and, or focus to organizations such as AQAP, AQIM and Al Shabaab. These organizations have taken the mantra of AQ and are conducting acts of terrorism in support of these goals, not only in their respective regions, but globally. At the very least these organizations will continue to prove a destabilizing force around the world. Organizations like Al Shabaab pose an additional threat as they have recruited large numbers of individuals from the Somali diaspora within the U.S. In addition to recruiting these individuals, Al Shabaab has not hesitated to utilize them in an operational capacity. Some of these individual now hold U.S. citizenship and as such become clean skin terrorist. The other impact of AQ the social movement is the rise of leaderless jihad in the form of individuals or small groups who conduct acts of terrorism in support of the Jihadist ideology. Hezbollah and Let seem to present the largest international threat post AQ. Hezbollah has expanded its base of operations from Lebanon and now has a strong foothold in Central and South America. It has alliances with TOC’s and is now involved in drug trafficking itself. Hezbollah’s backing from Iran, strong recruiting pool and deep hatred of the U.S. combined with the alliances with TOC within the Americas should present a strong warning to those within the IC and the CT community. LeT is one of the only Islamic Terrorist groups which has seen rapid growth post 9/11. While other groups were feeling the impacts of CT efforts, LeT was sheltered by the Pakistani Government and has grown in capacity, capability and reach. In addition, LeT now leads most other terrorist organizations in its efforts to recruit clean skin members and has demonstrated a willingness to employ these individuals. LeT’s espoused ideology goes far beyond its regional objectives and clearly the leadership of LeT have international aspirations. In the case of LeT, it is irrelevant whether they move outside of their current operational environment as they are in a position to be the only terrorist organization in existence which has the ability to bring two nuclear powers to war with each other.

In summary, the major threat of terrorism against the U.S. in the future seems to continue to be from Islamic terrorist with Jihadist ideologies. These organizations will adapt to terrorist tactics by forming alliances with TOC’s, recruiting individuals with clean skins and fermenting leaderless jihad. Organizations such as AQAP, AQIM, Al Shabaab, Hezbollah and LeT will continue to make up the bulk of organized terrorist organizations which pose a threat to the U.S. They will most probably continue to experience success within their current operational areas and will increasing begin to conduct operations on a global scale. At the end of the day, terrorist will adapt to the TTP’s of those who they target. Terrorism will continue to evolve and morph, constantly positioning itself to pose a threat to those who are counter to their ideologies.

References

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About the Author

Joseph A. Warrick

Joseph A. Warrick is a retired U.S. Army Warrant Officer with over 18 years experience within the SOF community and nearly 30 years total experience in Counterintelligence and HUMINT operations both within and outside of SOF. He is currently serving as an PE ops officer within the SOF Community with duty at Fort Bragg, NC.

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