Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Joint Special Operations University Press Publications



undefinedVillage Stability Operations and the Evolution of SOF Command and Control in Afghanistan: Implications for the Future of Irregular Warfare by William Knarr and Mark Nutsch

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.

Occasional Paper

Re-Evaluating Special Operations Forces-Led Counterterrorism Efforts by Barnett S. Koven

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.


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.


  Countering Transregional Terrorism Edited by Peter McCabe

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 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.

Occasional Paper

Reconceptualizing Radicalized Groups and Their Messages by Paul Lieber and Yael Lieber

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.

Occasional Paper

Countering the Islamist Insurgency by Jonathan Carroll

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.

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.


IS and Cultural Genocide: Antiquities Trafficking in the Terrorist State by Russell D. Howard, Marc D. Elliott, and Jonathan R. Prohov

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.

Occasional Paper

SOF and a Theory of Modern Terrorism by Harry (Rich) Yarger


Dr. Rich Yarger takes an in-depth look into the theory of modern terrorism to develop better understanding of ways to counter expansion of the terrorist threat. Dr. Yarger offers insights into the purpose of his theory. He describes how it provides a conceptual understanding of the phenomenon of modern terrorism and how the dynamics of any particular threat might play out, explains how terrorists may think and act, and provides insights into how states might react or choose to act in regard to the phenomenon. After outlining his theory he then illustrates some of its implications for Special Operations Forces (SOF). Dr. Yarger concludes that terrorists can be defeated in their strategic aims through studying their use of various forms of hard and soft power, and countering, or better applying, friendly hard and soft power. A theory of modern, or strategic, terrorism better informs  this strategic analysis.

Occasional Paper

Sun Tzu and Machiavelli in Syria: Attacking Alliances by Richard Rubright

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. 

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. 

What Does It Take To Be A "True Muslim"?

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.


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.

Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual

Special Operations Forces Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual, Third Edition by Charles Ricks

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.


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.

Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual


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.

Al Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Meghreb History of Algeria 1952 - 2009

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.


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.

Interagency Counterrorism Reference Manual

Special Operations Forces Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual by Charles Ricks

The SOF Interagency Counterterrorism Reference Manual is designed to support the Joint Special Operations University's educational mission and in particular its series of SOF Interagency courses. The volume was compiled to provide a valuable reference work for JSOU students, SOF staff officers, and partners in the interagency process. The manual provides insight and information regarding various counterterrorism players in the U.S. Government national security apparatus. While not all inclusive, this manual provides an outline of organizations, missions, and relationships that comprise the interagency process. 


Hunting Leadership Targets in Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism Operations by Graham H. Turbiville, Jr.

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. 


Beyond Draining the Swamp: Urban Development and Counterterrorism in Morocco by Stephen R. Dalzell

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. 


Narcoterrorism in Latin America: A Brazilian Perspective by Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro

Narcoterrorism in Latin America: A Brazilian Perspective builds a case for giving greater attention to the narcoterrorism threat. General Alvaro suggests that security conditions in Colombia and the Tri-Border Area (TBA), where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, deserve the immediate attention of security officials of the Hemisphere's more capable countries. In this paper, General Alvaro provides a review of Colombia's security situation-the history and current situation-and details his thoughts about the United States' support of the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez. 


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).



Theoretical Perspectives of Terrorist Enemies as Networks by Robert G. Spulak, Jr. and Jessica Glicekn Turnley

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. 


Russian Special Forces by Graham H. Turbiville, Jr.

Dr. Turbiville assesses Russia's faltering special operations forces and the backdrop of organizational, tactical and operational failures that has characterized their recent performance. He focuses on the relationship of these counterterrorism shortfalls to internal Russian allegations linking members of the special operations community to corruption, crime, and terrorism itself. Turbiville emphasizes that the implications of corrupt, ineffective, or rogue security forces extend beyond Russia and the region, and that continued candid appraisals of Russian counterterrorist effectiveness should influence the extent to which Russia can be regarded as a reliable partner against common security threats.