by Mark Grzegorzewski
In this Quick Look, Mark Grzegorzewski provides a brief overview of artificial intelligence (AI)—a specific field within computer science that explores how automated computing functions can resemble those of humans. In addition to an AI history timeline, the author touches on AI subfields, AI strengths and pitfalls, and ways SOF have employed AI technologies.
Structural Violence and Relative Deprivation: Precursors to Collective Political Violence in Sierra Leone by Earl Conteh-Morgan
In this new occasional paper, Dr. Conteh-Morgan examines how the combination of structural violence and relative deprivation are associated with, and were predictors of, civil strife in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. He focuses his analysis on one key question: In what ways did structural violence deepen insecurities and intensify relative deprivation in Sierra Leone and contribute to civil war? The author provides an in-depth explanation of the concept of structural violence and how it underscores the realities of human misery associated with inequality and disability. He then describes how the negative effects of structural violence of state institutions in many developing countries can lead to feelings of relative deprivation in individuals and groups in society. Dr. Conteh-Morgan then argues that Sierra Leone was plagued by structural violence and it was this condition that then contributed to a sense of relative deprivation among the population which in turn sparked the civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002. This study provides the SOF practitioner with an in-depth analysis of how internal and external structural problems intensified political grievances, increased deprivations and widespread misery, and eventually led to the implosion of Sierra Leone into full scale civil war.
In this new JSOU Press occasional paper Dr. Paul Lieber and Dr. Yael Lieber explore alternative approaches for Special Operations Forces (SOF) to engage with radicalized groups through comprehensive engagement in the narrative space to defeat the effects of ISIS in the psychological and sociological aspects of the human domain. Rethinking this problem from a joint social psychology—notably realistic conflict theory (RCT)—and social network analysis approach can yield unprecedented insights on the inner workings of radicalized groups and their penchant for political violence. The authors explore conflict theory through the lens of the Robbers' Cave experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif. The authors posit that in general, radicalization, and hopefully de-radicalization, may be said to follow a similar process whereby groups that are culturally, religiously, and/or racially diverse perceive each other as in competition for scarce resources such as employment, housing, education, and benefits--in-groups and out-groups. This paper continues with an analysis of the roles that are essential to promulgating and sustaining message influence within an in-group social network—group communication norms. Within these pages are tremendous insights, relevant to the SOF community, on ways to rethink counter-radicalization efforts.
In this paper the author, a retired special forces colonel, discusses political violence, radicalization, terrorism, and insurgency--some of the greatest security challenges the United States and its allies face today. Despite the fact that the United States Government (USG) has developed an exceptional counterterrorism (CT) capability to find and neutralize terrorists, the threat continues to exist. In fact, the problems only seem to be getting worse, with more and more attacks happening in the United States and Western Europe, and groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda recruiting thousands across the globe. The author discusses several reasons the United States isn’t more successful in its CT efforts. First, most policymakers fail to truly appreciate the nature of the problem. Second, in many cases the contemporary USG CT approach is flawed. Finally, the USG must continue to rethink Special Operations Forces employment to maximize their effectiveness against irregular threats.
In this monograph, the authors offer compelling research that reminds government and military officials of the moral, legal, and ethical dimensions of protecting cultural antiquities from looting and illegal trafficking. Internationally, states generally agree on the importance of protecting antiquities, art, and cultural property not only for their historical and artistic importance, but also because such property holds economic, political, and social value for nations and their peoples. Protection is in the common interest because items or sites are linked to the common heritage of mankind. The authors make the point that a principle of international law asserts that cultural or natural elements of humanity’s common heritage should be protected from exploitation and held in trust for future generations. The conflicts in Afghanistan, and especially in Iraq and Syria, coupled with the rise of the Islamic State (IS), have brought renewed attention to the plight of cultural heritage in the Middle East and throughout the world.
Dr. Cerami’s paper examines contrasting views on the geopolitical effects of the post–Arab Spring, assessing Middle Eastern, U.S., and European perspectives on transnational security issues—exploring those threats that directly influence the roles and missions of U.S. special operations forces (SOF). His analysis begins focused on the outward-directed threats in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including the use of force, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction proliferation, as well as human security issues, such as illegal immigration, refugees, and violence against noncombatants, especially women and children. He then assesses internal threats, such as the inability to address political conflict and enable non-violent transitions between regimes, from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Syria. For the West, there are further questions such as the ability to influence efforts at MENA state building in positive directions and whether there are convincing arguments for favoring stability and security over meaningful reforms that include the rule of law, civil society, and legitimate governance. Dr. Cerami’s research is an intriguing look into a region whose stability is directly related to our national interests and national security.
In this monograph, Dr. Jarret Brachman delves into al-Qaeda’s crumbling global movement and its internal struggles, including its attempts to remain relevant in the shadow of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Brachman cites various internal writings of al-Qaeda’s past and present leaders, thinkers, and supporters. It becomes clear that this once dominant terrorist organization has changed in the post-bin Laden era, is becoming fractured, and is taking a backseat to ISIL. Brachman analyzes letters, blog posts, and social media comments from various ranks within al-Qaeda that show the discontent, frustration, and confusion the once prominent terrorist organization has faced in recent years. Although struggling, al-Qaeda remains a serious threat and maintains a global footprint. But as ISIL gains more publicity, al-Qaeda has more trouble competing for followers, funding, and attention. This monograph explores al-Qaeda’s recent efforts to make sense of itself.
Dr. Moyar analyzes U.S. and international efforts to counter Mali's panoply of extremist organizations. Violent opposition to Mali's government has deep roots, which include historic tensions between the Tuaregs and other ethnic groups, as well as the emergence of Salafist extremist groups in Algeria. Extremist attacks on Mali's democratic government in late 2011 and early 2012 culminated in a military coup that allowed rebels to take control of northern Mali. Because Mali had received extensive military and nonmilitary assistance from the United States and other foreign countries in the preceding years, these disasters led to the questioning of aid practices, including those of United States Special Operations Forces (USSOF). This study adds to a growing body of knowledge on special operations and counterterrorism in Africa. It also contributes to the general understanding of the troubling events in Mali, where the government continues to confront violent extremism and other forms of rebellion. Perhaps most significantly for USSOF, the monograph offers insights into the building of partner capacity.
This is the award winning paper from the 2015 Lieutenant General Samuel V. Wilson Writing Award sponsored by the Joint Special Operations Command's Center for Counterterrorism Studies. The author analyzes ISIS's use of social media and offers recommendations to the combatant commander on what can be done to counter the threat. The author discusses social media and demonstrates how social media represents a paradigm shift in communication, complete with significant opportunities and challenges for the operational commanders and their staff. This paper offers a brief history of ISIS as a historical frame of reference and details how ISIS uses social media in its operations. It also discusses the important role social media plays in ISIS's operational and strategic objectives and how that impacts the combatant commander's intelligence collection, lines of effort, and current/future operations. Finally, the author provides tailored suggestions for the combatant commander and staff to consider when prosecuting an information operations campaign against ISIS consistent with U.S. policy and first amendment constitutional concerns.
Dr. Roby Barrett, in his latest JSOU monograph, provides an overview of the conflicts in early Islam that are still the sources of many conflicts today. Viewing the Islamic world as one entity, or one made up of major sects (Sunni and Shia), is misleading. Islam is a complex religion with a vast history of internal conflict that speaks to contemporary issues today, including discussions on terrorism and radicalism. Dr. Barrett discusses the shifting U.S. role relative to Islam and provides an overview of contemporary Islam, including radicalism and the issue of a fractured community. Islam's internal conflict highlights the reason why Pan-Islamic movements never gain much traction and why radical Islam remains disjointed. Dr. Barrett posits that the West must focus less on Islam as an ideology and more on those local issues that drive the threat. The insights provided by Dr. Barrett in this monograph challenge the reader to rethink how one approaches the challenges in the Middle East.
Dr. Mark Moyar outlines the history of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program and its Afghan partner program, the Afghan Local Police (ALP). Based on years of extensive research within Afghanistan, Dr. Moyar covers VSO and ALP from their inception through the end of VSO and the transition of the ALP to complete Afghan control. He notes that the programs came into existence out of recognition that exclusive reliance on direct-action counterterrorism had been unable to stop the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups. He highlights the importance of understanding the human terrain and the strategic context when attempting to mobilize populations against insurgents and explains the challenges of empowering qualified and motivated Afghan leaders at multiple levels. He also emphasizes the importance of USSOF leadership and describes the challenges encountered in transitioning the ALP to complete Afghan control and its implications for the transition of future SOF programs.
Counterinsurgency in Somalia: Lessons Learned from the African Union Mission in Somalia, 2007-2013 by Bronwyn E. Bruton and Paul D. Williams
Ms. Bronwyn Bruton and Dr. Paul Williams bring their expertise ingovernance, conflict mitigation, and Africa, to this analysis of Somalia's attempts to establish security and build state institutions while facing the Harakat al-Shabaab insurgency. By every measure of state effectiveness-income generation and distribution, execution of the rule of law, and ability to provide basic human security-Somalia has little or no capability. The authors address the roots of Somalia's long-running conflict and examine the often conflicting motivations of the large range of actors: local, national, regional, and international. This context is essential for understanding the evolution and sustainment of Harakat al-Shabaab. With its links to al-Qaeda, Harakat al-Shabaab remains a security challenge for the entire Horn of Africa. While AMISOM's goal was to protect Somalia's weak transitional national government and stabilize the security environment, its mission went well beyond traditional peacekeeping to include warfighting, counterinsurgency operations, and humanitarian assistance. The AMISOM approach may come to characterize future operations in this region.
Dr. James Forest's monograph explores lessons and observations from the recent U.S. Special Operations Forces' (SOF) effort to help Ugandan and other African regional forces locate and apprehend Joseph Kony and members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Dr. Forest examines the context behind the decision to deploy U.S. military advisors to the region and the significant public pressure placed on the Obama administration to do something. Four themes are identified as important for the success or failure of future U.S. military deployments to sub-Saharan Africa: (1) preparations and logistics, (2) perceptions and expectations management, (3) partnerships and relationship management, and (4) policy and politics. He argues that in the case of Uganda it is critical that any successes derived from collaborative operations must be owned by the Ugandans. Dr. Forest's concluding chapter offers some thoughts about further research and implications for policy and SOF education. This report makes a meaningful contribution to the effectiveness of future U.S. SOF teams deploying to sub-Saharan Africa.
In this report, the authors argue that al-Shabaab's current prospects have probably never been so low.This work provides a meaningful context to al-Shabaab and the Somali milieu. Al Shabaab has been pushed from all of its major strongholds by a robust international effort, and its violent Salafism has alienated many Somalis. But it still has teeth. It continues to harass coalition forces, as well as ordinary Somalis, with improvised explosive devices, suicide bombings, and assassinations. Its tactics reflect a strategic decision made by its leadership to fight a guerrilla war, a familiar role for a group that thrived by waging an anti-Ethiopian insurgency in the mid-2000s. This monograph is a useful resource for anyone who wishes to know more about the conflict in the Horn of Africa.
In this monograph, Brigadier General (retired) Russ Howard presents a substitute for traditional International Relations Theory by asserting that strategic culture analysis of states and non-state actors or groups is a better predictor of behavior. Specifically, General Howard posits that studying and understanding the strategic cultures of threatening states and non-state actors might be a more useful mechanism for analyzing potential adversaries’ proclivity to using force to further their strategic security objectives. The author delves into the strategic cultures of The United States, China, Iran, North Korea, and al-Qaeda before analyzing commonalities among them. This foundation allows General Howard to then develop and provide actionable policy guidelines to contextualize an end state which strategic cultural analysis can provide. This strategic culture analysis can be beneficial to all echelons, from the SOF operator in a village who must understand and work within the strategic culture of the operational environment, to the policymakers who must decide National Strategy.
In this monograph, Dr. Alexander sets the stage with a brief historical account of how maritime piracy has evolved over the centuries to its current state: a vast enterprise whose increasing profitability has attracted a confluence of nefarious actors including warlords and international criminal organizations. Dr. Alexander speculates on the potential for intersection between pirates and ideological terrorist movements such as al-Qaeda and Associated Movements. Such a future would significantly elevate the stakes in a U.S. whole-of-government counter-piracy response. What role should the U.S. military, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) in particular, play in addressing the global issue of maritime piracy? Dr. Alexander points out many of the thorny legal considerations that contextually color any efforts to address counter-piracy and notes that the best solution to criminal acts occurring hundreds of miles at sea may in fact lie with efforts, including the use of SOF, to improve the security apparatus on shore.
Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria by James J.F. Forest
In this monograph counterterrorism expert James Forest assesses the threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and U.S. national security interests. As Dr. Forest notes, Boko Haram is largely a local phenomenon, though one with strategic implications, and must be understood and addressed within its local context and the long standing grievances that motivate terrorist activity. Dr. Forest deftly explores Nigeria’s ethnic fissures and the role of unequal distribution of power in fueling terrorism. Indeed, these conditions, combined with the ready availability of weapons, contribute to Nigeria’s other security challenges including militancy in the Niger Delta and organized crime around the economic center of the country, Lagos.
Dr. John Alexander's current JSOU Press monograph provides an assessment of the African continent with a particular focus on how Special Operations Forces (SOF) may need to operate and how the local environment impacts these operations. He provides a strategic overview and assessment of current conditions on the continent, identifies current conditions on the continent, identifies key concerns and issues, and discusses key players. For a variety of reasons, Africa is, and will remain, a region of critical importance not only to the United States but also to other regions and countries of the world.
In this paper civil affairs officer Lieutenant Colonel Steve Dalzell discusses ways that the Kingdom of Morocco is addressing some of the fundamental social and physical needs of its growing population in order to preempt social unrest-and the potential for support to extremist groups. Morocco's campaign against Islamic extremism merits study because of its importance for the global war on terrorism and the apparent linkages between urban conditions and domestic terrorist groups.