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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications



Iranian Proxy Groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen: A Principal-Agent Comparative Analysis by Diane M. Zorri, Houman A. Sadri, and David C. Ellis

Understanding how and why Iran uses proxy forces throughout the Middle East is vitally important for policymakers, military strategists, and operators. The lessons in this volume are not isolated to U.S. approaches toward Iranian use of proxies but have broader implications in great power competition. Russia and China have their own versions of proxies that also seek to compete with the U.S. short of armed conflict. Zorri, Sadri, and Ellis have provided the special operations community with a roadmap to responding to such activities when so many are struggling to find a solution.


ISIS 2.0: South and Southeast Asia Opportunities and Vulnerabilities by Namrata Goswami

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.


The Enemy is Us: How Allied and U.S. Strategy in Yemen Contributes to AQAP’s Survival by Norman Cigar

In this monograph, Dr. Norman Cigar provides Special Operations Forces (SOF) commanders and planners with an overview of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) operational framework and presence in the area. He analyzes the strategic and operational issues that confront policymakers in responding to the threat posed by AQAP within Yemen’s challenging social, political, and physical environment. This monograph presents the far-reaching implications for SOF, from recognizing the nuances of Yemen’s tribal-based human terrain to understanding key relationships, rivalries, and competition between AQAP and other Yemeni players. AQAP will likely continue to represent a threat to U.S. interests and regional stability for the foreseeable future.


The War Within: A Look Inside al-Qaeda’s Undoing by Jarret Brachman,

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.

SOF Role in Combating Transnational Organized Crime













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.

ISIS and Social Media

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. 


Islam: Ideology and Conflict by Dr. Roby C. Barrett

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. 


Piracy: The Best Business Model Available by John Alexander

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. 


The Nexus of Extremism and Trafficking Scourge of the World or So Much Hype?  by Russell D. Howard and Colleen Traughber

In this monograph, Brigadier General (retired) Russ Howard and Ms. Colleen Traughber  delve into the nexus between violent extremist elements and transnational criminal elements by first clarifying whether a real problem exists, and if so, what is the appropriate role for Special Operations Forces (SOF) in confronting it. The authors bring rigor to the subject matter by dissecting the issue of intention and opportunities of criminal organization and violent extremists. The authors note the wide variance in the motivations and opportunities of both different criminal organizations and extremist organizations. And make clear that the trafficking of humans, weapons, drugs, and contraband (HWDC) is a natural way for the criminals and extremists to cooperate. To bring the issue into focus, the authors systematically examine case studies dealing with the nexus between specific organizations and HWDC trafficking opportunities. The authors transition from the vignettes to how this nexus will impact SOF and interagency partners. They then identify issues for SOF including the traditional delineation between law enforcement activities and military activities.


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. 


Understanding the Form, Function, and Logic of Clandestine Insurgent and Terrorist Networks: The First Step in Effective Counternetwork Operations by LTC Derek Jones

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 Challenge of Nonterritorial and Virtual Conflicts: Rethinking Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism by Stephen Sloan

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.


Hezbollah: Social Services as a Source of Power by James B. Love

This monograph provides special oper¬ations readers with useful and important insights into how civic actions can achieve strategic objectives. The author uses Hezbollah as an illustration and reminder of this process by outlining the comprehensive activities of the Hezbollah Social Service Section as a precursor for success in Hezbollah’s political and military actions. The author estimates that about half of Hezbollah’s budget is dedicated to social services sectors such as health, veterans’ services, reconstruction and compensation, education, women’s groups, and even the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts (roughly analogous to the Boy Scouts). Such efforts are employed to capture the willing support of the people in order to further Hezbollah’s political aims. The concept is working, as Hezbollah has largely supplanted the Government of Lebanon in the southern part of that country while it continues to harass Israel and the West on the political-military front.


Terrorist-Insurgent Thinking and Joint Special Operations Planning: Doctrine and Procedure by Laurge Paquette

This monograph examines the characteristics of terrorist-insurgent thinking and U.S. joint planning doctrine and practices and concludes that the existing U.S. planning framework is inadequate for the terrorist-insurgent threat. It also challenges the reader to expand his own planning paradigm to more fully encompass the implications of terrorist-insurgent thinking in the design and planning of U.S. operations. Why this mismatch occurs and how the terrorist-insurgent operates outside our cognitive frame of reference (for fighting in theaters of war, theaters of operations, areas of operations) are two important questions addressed. Equally important is the question, what are the implications of this for our own doctrine and practices? Focusing on two of the most significant characteristics of terrorist-insurgent thinking--changing level of operations and broader range of tactics--Dr. Paquette answers these questions and identifies the obstacles that stand in the way of the necessary adjustments to our conventional paradigms. Note: This paper is not available in hard copy.


The War on Terrorism: Countering Global Insurgency in the 21st Century by James A. Bates

This paper adds to the growing debate concerning the challenges of the United States strategic engagement strategy and recommends options for the emerging 21st Century. This author envisions a national interagency structure to integrate every instrument of national power. This structure will focus, collaborate and coordinate at four strategic levels: global, multi-regional, regional and national, and will implement three regional engagement strategy options. These are Conflict/Unilateral Operations, Support to Insurgencies and Security Assistance (SA) utilizing the principles of Foreign Internal Defense (FID) that will effectively facilitate the execution of the global war on terrorism (GWOT).