Koven and Lindquist address the main problems with Special Operations Forces (SOF) counterterrorism (CT) effectiveness: lack of grand strategy, overemphasis on disruption-focused CT, limitations to existing interagency processes, and barriers to effective international CT cooperation. The authors demonstrate this in two case studies of the Philippines and Colombia. Using the simple formula of Terrorism = Motivation + Operational Capability, the authors posit that terrorism and CT at their core are political phenomenons. Targeting capabilities without addressing motivation is insufficient, and counterproductive. The monograph wraps up by providing suggestions for areas for improvement that SOF could implement to improve CT effectiveness.
This monograph explores one key element of the ability of SOF to compete below the level of armed conflict—civil affairs (CA). Although the counterterrorism fight has featured kinetic operations as the quintessential SOF strength, great power competition will likely see CA assume a more prominent role as the U.S. and its competitors seek broader influence across the Global South. Major Travis Clemens provides a terrific overview of how CA can contribute in new and highly valuable ways in seeking advantage in the context of great power competition. As the enterprise wrestles with adapting itself for the future, assessments from members of the force, such as this one, will become increasingly important.
Dr. Kevin Fridy and Dr. Molly Ariotti assert that a CT effect in Burkina Faso can be more fruitfully generated by incorporating the range of Burkinabè informal governance providers into joint, interagency, and partner operational concepts. Although joint doctrine correctly notes the host nation (HN) government must invite U.S. Special Operations Forces into the country, it errs in assuming that only the HN provides the population with governance. By differentiating between the concepts of government and governance, Fridy and Ariotti demonstrate how local political legitimacy can be enhanced—and the allure of violent extremist organizations diminished—by enhancing indigenous, informal governance structures. Although written from the perspective of CT, readers are encouraged to imagine how SOF could apply the insights in the context of great power competition as well.
In this monograph Bill Knarr and Mark Nutsch recount how the Special Operations Forces (SOF) command and control evolved with all of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) dimensions culminating ultimately in the creation of the Special Operations Joint Task Force. With the 2018 National Defense Strategy calling for expanding the competition space below the level of armed conflict, VSO provides a timely and relevant example of how SOF can contribute to this vision. Just like terrorism, great power competition will play out in countries with weak sociopolitical systems. The inherently political character and joint, interagency, international/multinational, and corporate nature of VSO can be replicated in many parts of the world for sustainable strategic effect. This monograph develops the concepts for SOF on how to contribute more effectively and efficiently to the counterterrorism fight, but readers would do well to think about VSO principles and command and control in the context of great power competition.
Dr. Koven, in this occasional paper, posits that kinetic counterterrorism (CT) actions undertaken by the state to kill, capture, or otherwise disrupt terrorist groups are ineffective in isolation. While kinetic actions may succeed in disrupting a specific plot or other activities in the immediate term, they have little long-term effect on the ability of terrorist groups to operate. This study, backed by data from Colombian CT efforts over several years, demonstrates that government CT activities leading to the capture, killing, or demobilization of terrorists are correlated with an increase in terrorist attacks following a government’s actions. Moreover, this study reasons that government actions also serve to diffuse terrorist attacks into surrounding municipalities. Although kinetic CT actions may appear effective insofar as terrorist violence in the immediate vicinity of the CT actions decreases, if terrorism is displaced to other areas, this is not truly indicative of success. Dr. Koven's research suggests that successful CT approaches will require carefully sequenced kinetic and non-kinetic approaches.
Behind headlines, social media, and fear-mongering lies an ISIS threat not of ideology, but rather opportunity. ISIS is a maestro at maximizing political instability and discontent, parlaying them into new potential strongholds and followers. In this monograph, Namrata Goswami expertly unmasks this underground version of ISIS, and with it, uncovers vulnerabilities to previously untapped ISIS targets in Bangladesh, Burma, India, and Indonesia.This monograph provides a much needed fact-based perspective to explain the success of ISIS in both spreading its ideology and recruitment base. Drawing upon historical examples and parallels, the author describes a movement that is very strategic in its emphases. Even existing scholars in the region are apt to find new and invaluable insights on where sociological, cultural, and political variables of this region intersect with ISIS opportunity.
Countering terrorism is very hard. Countering it across global and regional geographic boundaries is even harder. Also, as increasingly powerful technologies become available to terrorists, the consequences of failing to surmount their adaptiveness and agility become much larger. It is vital to recognize that, despite some very impressive progress that the United States and the international community have made in combating terrorism since 9/11, we still struggle as a global community with the creation of durable, permanent solutions, and outcomes against it. This important publication urges consideration of how we might be able to find better pathways, better solutions, and better designs into the future. The future will not wait for us.
The SOF advisory role is a long-term commitment to help enable and aid other nations improve their military forces and security. SOF advisors have traditionally operated at the tactical level to increase partner capabilities ‘by, with and through’ to generate sufficient rule of law, address local needs, and advance rapport building. Mr. White advocates for a SOF role in advising foreign militaries at the high operational/strategic and ministerial levels. He provides real world examples through four vignettes of SOF advisors in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, and the Philippines. This monograph is a handy resource for commanders and planners needing to establish a rapport with allies and friends at the highest operational/strategic and ministerial levels.
The role of economics in the generation and mitigation of grievances is well documented and understood. Likewise, the reliance on economic documents forms the basis for credible economic systems worldwide. For the Special Operations Forces (SOF) professional, however, the issues of property rights, economic development, and the generation of wealth are more nuanced and central to the successful completion of SOF missions in failing and failed states. As Colonel Bill Mandrick demonstrates in this monograph, a nation-state's failure to have in place a system for the equitable access to and the sharing of economic activity is a guarantor of grievances, anger, and instability. So too is the failure to enforce an existing system of property rights and economic opportunity. He argues that an awareness of the economic records of a nation-state provides useful insights into its stability and can provide important intelligence to expand SOF situational awareness and support SOF mission planning.
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.
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.
The purpose of this short work is to contextualize the ongoing conflict in Syria through the combined lens of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, juxtaposed to the normative trend the West has followed ever so ineffectually since the conflict began in Syria. This work is an alternative view of the conflict that should be read as a cautionary tale concerning our lack of proficiency in strategy. It is broken down into three distinct parts. The first part contextualizes the conflict and the actors involved, to include the proxies. The second part lays out the strategic principles of Sun Tzu as pertaining to the conflict to provide a strategic framework with which the reader may make sense of the conflict's complex nature. The final part focuses on U.S. action keeping in mind Machiavelli within the Syrian conflict as informed by Sun Tzu's strategic principles. Dr. Rubright is a senior faculty member at the Joint Special Operations University and teaches in the fields of special operations, strategy, and counterinsurgency.
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.
SOF Role in Combating Transnational Organized Crime, edited by William Mendel and Dr. Peter McCabe
In April 2015, military and civilian personnel from Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together at Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a symposium hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command-North and facilitated by Joint Special Operations University and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. Their task was to examine the role of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in combating transnational organized crime (TOC). The panelists and plenary participants set to work considering a wide range of issues attending to the TOC threat. After the Symposium concluded, panelists and speakers synthesized the results of their research and panel discussions in articles for publication—those articles are found in the chapters of this report of proceedings. The implication for SOF is they must continue to train to meet the strategic challenges ahead. This will require forward-deployed units that are engaged with their counterparts in host countries because TOC is both a threat to, and a result of, weak, emerging democratic governments that benefit from engagement. Readiness to conduct all SOF core activities will remain a priority.
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.
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.
This is the award winning paper from the inaugural (2014) LTG Samuel V. Wilson Writing Award sponsored by the Joint Special Operations Command's Center for Counterterrorism Studies. The author addresses the success of the al-Qa'ida network's narrative and how it has influenced the radicalization of young individuals, thereby generating a greater number of recruits for al-Qa'ida and its affiliates and adherents (AQAA). The author provides an overview of al-Qa'ida's narrative and then presents AQAA's foundational ideology as well as insights from historically influential scholars who have impacted and shaped today's Salafi-Jihadist groups. The author then discusses a mixture of counter-narratives, to be used in various combinations, as custom-designed solutions for specific communities in which stakeholders will implement the counter-narratives. The author also introduces moderate Muslim scholars and activists who support those counter-narratives and, correspondingly, illustrates the differences between mainstream orthodox Sunni Muslims and Salafists. The paper concludes with a model in which many of the proposed counter-narratives and methods have proven fruitful.
In February 2013, more than 125 Special Operations Forces SOF personnel from Canada, the United States, and eight other countries gathered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, for a two-day symposium on the Role of the Global SOF Network in a Resource Constrained Environment. This was the third symposium in a series held by the Joint Special Operations University and the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Professional Development Centre. The event featured a mix of individual presentations, panel discussions, and social interaction to introduce issues, engage in productive discussions, and strengthen SOF network relationships. The focus ranged from the tactical (The Acid Test of Reality—Experiences of the Operators) to the strategic with senior civilian and military leadership from both Canada and the U.S. assuming active, contributing roles. This report offers insights and suggestions on how to deliver operational success while accommodating both changing mission sets and resource constrained environments.
Introduced by the Vice Commander of USSOCOM, this Third Edition builds upon the success of the earlier versions and continues to incorporate the evolving policy guidance and strategic vision that guide ongoing interagency counterterrorism efforts. It provides an outline of organizations, missions, programs and relationships that comprise the interagency process. This manual provides insight and information regarding various counterterrorism organizations in the U.S. Government national security apparatus. Also included is an explanation of the expanded concepts of civilian power and their implications for Diplomacy and Development that emerged from the publication of the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in 2010. Expanded sections on countering terrorist finance operations, interagency responses to cyber threats, and strategic communication reflect general acknowledgement of the importance of these capabilities. As before, updated collections of definitions, organizations, programs, and acronyms are included to provide the special operations warrior with an improved, practical, quick-reference guide to the interagency community.
Lieutenant Colonel Derek Jones wrote this School of Advanced Military Studies award-winning comprehensive study of clandestine cellular networks and the effect on counterinsurgency operations in 2008 while a student at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Consequently, his monograph, although timeless in its discussion and analysis of clandestine cellular networks, was drafted years before the May 2011 operation against Osama bin Laden that resulted in his death. Therefore, the paper does not address the impact on such organizations from the death of its most charismatic leader. His monograph does provide, however, a theoretical, doctrinal, and operational understanding of the form, function, and logic of clandestine cellular networks resulting in valuable insight and understanding of the complex nature of these organizations.
The author of this paper--an experienced and highly regarded terrorism specialist--provides a learned narrative about the scholarship and doctrine concerning terrorism and insurgency. The premise of the paper is that terrorism in the 21st century has become predominately international in nature, riding on the back of opportunities provided by new technologies in cyberspace, aerospace, and the Internet. In offering his thoughts about the well-chronicled flow of terrorism analysis, Dr. Sloan identifies how such recent trends should be affecting counterterrorism doctrine and policy. He suggests that traditional concepts for countering terrorism and insurgency are not effective in dealing with contemporary terrorism in its modern form as a non-territorially based insurgency. In the concluding parts of this monograph, Dr. Sloan addresses a number of additional views for improving upon the traditional approaches in order to deal with international and virtual threats, including a need to be keenly focused upon countermeasures for terrorist’s use of aerospace and cyberspace.
As the director of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Interagency Task Force (IATF), Mr. Frankie Shoyer introduces this Second Edition. This edition enhances the earlier document by adding President Obama’s National Security Strategy, expanding information in other areas such as in the Country Team and discussing the concept of the SOF professional operating as the 3-D warrior (defense, diplomacy, and development). This concept recognizes the importance of SOF as part of the sinew that binds together critical elements of national power and animates them under the most demanding conditions. As USSOCOM conducts a robust engagement campaign working with U.S. Government interagency components, the manual serves as an essential component of USSOCOM/JSOU’s successful education curriculum that is focused on the interagency process. JSOU’s Interagency Education Program and this manual make important contributions to the knowledge base and professional development of the SOF and interagency communities.
Counterterrorism (CT) policy is like a game of chess. It often evolves as the result of a terrorist act or campaign. The objective of an effective CT policy is to identify and address the conditions that lead a terrorist group to act. It requires all facets of political, military, intelligence, and law enforcement planning to identify the root causes before a common thread binds these causes into a definable terrorist group. The history of Indonesia is defined by struggle: the struggle for independence from Dutch colonial rule, the struggle to establish the Islamic State of Indonesia, the struggle for self determination by the people of Indonesia from an authoritarian regime. These all play significant roles in the psyche of the population.
This paper is simply an academic analysis of the strategic and operational environment in Indonesia prior to the Bali bombings. It is organized into five chapters that focus on the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The overall intent of the first chapter is twofold. First, it aims to academically examine the origins of JI in terms of the antecedent conditions that, collectively, led to its creation and decision to conduct terrorist activities. Second, it hopes to identify the actors that helped to bond the antecedents together.
The devastating terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 will forever resonate in the minds of Americans. The images of billowing smoke emanating from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caused many to ask “who could do this to us?” To answer that question we must examine the past and look at the policies enacted by our government that caused a cyclic reaction within our enemy. The same is true for other governments that seek to expand their sphere of influence without examining those critical antecedents that affect the indigenous population. These disenfranchised subjects, when facing a foreign invader or apostate government, will often draw on a shared identity, be it cultural, ethnic, religious, or political, to sound the battle cry of resistance.
This paper is organized into four chapters that focus on the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The four chapters examine different facets of the collective environment that have allowed AQIM to succeed and even thrive at times. The first chapter begins with Algeria’s war of independence with the French. It focuses on how the Algerians were able to successfully isolate the French from the population through the use of terrorism. It also lays the foundation for the concept of terrorism within Algeria to further a political agenda.
Today U.S. national security is threatened by violent extremist groups operating from sanctuaries in hard to reach areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and similar areas in the Pacific Rim and Latin America. It seems probable that there will be a marked increase in our need to disrupt and destroy enemy forces in multiple sanctuaries around the globe as we proceed to march through the 21st century. Celeski's paper provides a vision of the future SOF wherein hunter-killer teams could have a significant role to play in finding, disrupting, and destroying the enemy.
Despite the increasing employment of manhunting, the U.S. national security establishment has not developed appropriate doctrine, dealt with challenging legal issues, nor has it organized forces and assigned clear responsibility to deploy and employ these capabilities. Manhunting could become an important element of future U.S. national security policy, as highly trained teams disrupt or disintegrate human networks. This monograph reviews historical cases related to manhunting and derives lessons from a large number of these historical manhunting operations. Building on these lessons, the monograph then explores potential doctrine, evaluates possible organizational structures, and examines how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security.
Dr. Turbiville's latest monograph has significant implications for U.S. Special Operations Forces as we continue to operate in both combat and noncombat zones against groups desiring to overthrow existing governments. We must take into account the insurgent organization's plans and operations, but to do so will require us and our local hosts to overcome the insurgent or terrorist group's internal security processes while protecting our operations and organizations from insurgent infiltration.
Major Anderson provides an excellent overview of terrorist financing and expands upon how it fits into the broader construct of threat financing. He articulates the significant challenges any government faces in trying to interrupt the terrorist networks use of the global financial system. The sheer immensity of this system provides ample opportunity for terrorists to operate undetected or unhindered. He also highlights that the very international nature of the global economic system presents enormous challenges in trying to coordinate amongst the almost 200 sovereign states that comprise the current world order.
This monograph reviews selected foreign experience in targeting insurgent and terrorist leadership. The intent is to provide a limited illustration of many efforts in various countries to locate and neutralize key combatant leaders or support cadres whose capture or death was judged contributive to eliminating a guerrilla or terrorist threat. As a dimension accompanying other counterinsurgency (COIN) measures or more developed COIN and counterterrorist strategies, the emphasis placed on leadership targeting has ranged from central to peripheral.
US armed forces execute the Global War on Terror, varying strategies are required to facilitate victory within those sovereign states that are hesitant to permit a significant number of US personnel on their soil. The Philippines is an excellent example of how the US military can still achieve victory while under severe operational constraints imposed by a host government. US advisors working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines are developing creative and unconventional counter-insurgency (COIN) strategies to win the support of the local population and to sever their links to the indigenous Abu Sayyaf Group. The 'outhouse strategy' discussed herein is indicative of the peculiarities of unconventional warfare.
The score for the Long War can look very different depending on which scorecard is used. Emphasis is currently placed on historically-based, quantifiable, state-versus-state measures which attempt to correlate what we are doing with how we are doing. But the current fight against al-Qaeda is not a state-versus-state war and requires a different metrics that more accurately depict who is winning and who is losing.
In this paper, Dr. Jessica Glicken Turnley helps the planner to consider the challenge of how a bureaucratically organized force might assess a network-centric enemy and develop appropriate strategies. Implications drawn here by Dr. Turnley relate to USSOCOM strategic priorities for winning the war on terror and ensuring a competitive advantage in the future. These priorities include leading the planning for the DoD Global War on Terrorism as well as command-specific counterterrorism operations. The paper also implies considerations for force readiness and developing USSOCOM's next-generation capabilities.
Social and physical networks have many similarities, and many differences. And while network analysis can be useful for defeating an adversary's physical networked infrastructure, such as power grids or transportation systems, it is only a piece of a larger toolkit when working with a human system. Indeed, human will and adaptability are critical aspects of a network that might otherwise be viewed as purely technical. We compare and contrast approaches from the physical and social sciences, using networks to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of using the same analytic perspective for significantly different targets. We conclude with a discussion of the networks suggested by the National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism.