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Book Chapter


Combating Transnational Terrorism, Procon Ltd., Sofia, p.vii-x (2016)
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Terrorism is a global security challenge and an existential threat to a growing number of states. As such, it is a high priority in national security strategies around the world. It is hardly surprising that the subject has already attracted an immense and growing body of literature. Combating Transnational Terrorism adds to this body of work. Uniquely, this book is based upon and primarily designed for the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies’ (GCMC) long running and highly successful Program on Terrorism and Security Studies (PTSS). Unlike the majority of books on the subject, it is principally intended for security service professionals and practitioners of counter-terrorism (CT), although we are also confident that students of terrorism studies and interested general readers will find much of value within its pages. All of the authors have taught on the PTSS, in some cases many times, and bring both scholarly and practical insights to their chapters. Each of them understands the needs of the CT community given their years of experience and interaction with professional security force personnel and government officials from all over the world.

As the title suggests, Combating Transnational Terrorism seeks to highlight the global nature of the threat and emphasize the need for cooperative, international responses. Fittingly, there are typically 40 to 50 different countries represented on any given iteration of the PTSS. The book is therefore aimed at a truly global audience, including readers for whom English is often a second or third language. As a result, the writing style seeks to present complex topics in a way that is accessible for non-native English speakers. In line with the PTSS, the focus of the book is strategic, rather than operational or tactical. It is intended to assist CT professionals to think broadly and strategically about the phenomenon of terrorism and our responses to it. It recognizes that CT practitioners have to deal on a daily basis with a highly complex problem that embraces political, economic, informational, judicial, intelligence, military, law enforcement and many other factors, both domestic and international. However, each chapter also utilizes real world case studies and relevant examples to emphasize the practical and policy issues involved. Like the course on which it is based, Combating Transnational Terrorism promotes both a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the threat and the full range of measures required to deal with it.

Part 1 of the book is devoted to an understanding of the terrorist threat. In the first chapter, renowned terrorism expert Alex Schmid addresses the vexed issue of definitions. Defining terrorism is a logical start to our analysis and the chapter clearly illustrates why security institutions and the international community have such difficulties arriving at a consensus on the issue. Chapter 2 deals with terrorist motivations. Egyptian scholar Dina al Raffie tackles certain myths about what motivates terrorists before providing a comprehensive survey of the individual and environmental factors that sometimes combine to result in terrorism. In chapter 3, retired US Marine Corps Colonel and current PTSS Course Director, James Howcroft, writes on the subject of terrorist strategies and tactics. Using the common framework of ends, ways and means, he explains the method behind the apparent madness of terrorism and how “armed propaganda” remains the essence of terrorist strategy. Following on from Howcroft’s chapter, Czech author Adam Dolnik addresses the subject of terrorist innovation. He discusses how and why terrorist tactical innovation occurs and the ways in which terrorist organizations around the world communicate with and learn from one another. Based on this analysis, the chapter considers the prospects that the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) will engage in radical innovation. In chapter 5, the editors join forces with retired Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Steve Monaco to address the topical subject of crime and terror. This chapter analyses the similarities and differences between terrorism and organized crime and assesses the prospects for closer cooperation, or ‘convergence,’ between groups involved in each type of activity. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of the crime-terror nexus for CT and law enforcement professionals. Chapter 6 examines terrorism and the media. This chapter is written by US State Department official and former PTSS faculty member, Eric Young. He examines the changing relationship between terrorists and the media and the impact of the Internet in particular. A major focus within the chapter is the way in which terrorist organizations are exploiting emerging media technologies in varied and innovative ways. In Chapter 7, Robert Brannon, the Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the Marshall Center, examines the possibilities of terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. His analysis clarifies the difficulties involved for terrorist groups contemplating such attacks, whilst also describing how they could take place. In the final chapter of this section of the book, GCMC Professor of Counter-Terrorism Sam Mullins addresses the escalating danger presented by jihadist ‘foreign fighters’ and so-called ‘lone wolf’ terrorists. This chapter describes how these related challenges have developed over time and explores profiles, motives, processes of radicalization and operational activities. It concludes with a discussion of key concerns and opportunities in CT.

Part 2 of the book focuses on countermeasures. It opens with Chapter 9, in which retired British Army officer and veteran PTSS Professor James Wither discusses the role of the security forces. This chapter offers a critical assessment of the evolving role of the military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies in CT. It examines organizational, operational and technological developments as well as the continuing challenges and limitations of using force to combat terrorism. In Chapter 10, Peter Clarke, the former Assistant Commissioner (Specialist Operations) and head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, provides invaluable, personal insights into the development of intelligence-led policing in the UK. This chapter explains the crucial shift towards intelligence-led policing after 9/11 and addresses the organizational, legal, ethical and technical challenges involved. The following chapter, written by former US Navy Judge Advocate Dean Dwigans, deals with legal issues in CT. His chapter explains the critical components of the international legal regime for combating terrorism, highlighting “need-to-know” principles for practitioners and examining the dilemmas and controversies of international law in practice. In Chapter 12, James Wither addresses the controversial subject of talking to terrorists. He demonstrates that governments frequently communicate with terrorist organizations despite claims to the contrary. This chapter differentiates between different types of ‘engagement’ with terrorists and provides the reader with a nuanced understanding of the role of negotiation in combating terrorism, such as when it is most appropriate and how it should be conducted. Countering violent extremism (CVE) is the subject of Chapter 13. Author Sam Mullins begins by explaining key concepts and exploring the different reasons why people sometimes disengage (or fail to engage in the first place) with violent extremism. He outlines different tools that can be applied in CVE and includes case studies of targeted interventions aimed at both the prevention of violent extremism and the rehabilitation of captured/convicted terrorists. Principles of best practice are identified and discussed, together with ongoing challenges and potential ways to overcome them.

The next chapter addresses terrorist financing, written by another PTSS veteran, Duquesne University Professor John Sawicki. He explains why it is important to understand how terrorists finance their operations, the multiple ways in which terrorists seek to acquire money and some of the more novel techniques that terrorist groups are turning to. The chapter concludes with an outline of key measures against terrorism financing that the author recommends all states adopt. In Chapter 15, retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supervisory Special Agent Joe Airey combines with Slovenian scholar, Iztok Prezelj, to produce an analysis of interagency cooperation in CT. Based on the authors’ combined academic and practical experience, this chapter identifies key capacities that need to be coordinated as part of a comprehensive approach to CT. It further analyzes two examples of good practice (Joint Terrorism Task Forces and intelligence fusion centers) before concluding with general recommendations for practitioners on how to improve interagency cooperation in CT. Chapter 16 brings together many of the key recommendations raised in earlier chapters and demonstrates how they can be incorporated into the framework of a comprehensive CT strategy. The author, US Army Ranger and former PTSS Course Director, Colonel Joseph King, discusses the elements and characteristics of effective strategy making and provides clear and practical guidance through what is inevitably a complex and difficult process.

Taken together, these chapters represent decades’ worth of combined academic research and hands-on operational experience in CT. We are confident that you will find Combating Transnational Terrorism useful, interesting and valuable in your work. Above all, we sincerely hope that it makes a positive contribution to the global struggle against terrorism.

Last updated: Wednesday, 27 January 2016