Disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately defeating al-Qaeda based and inspired terrorism is a declared policy of the U.S. Government. Three key strategic objectives have been identified for accomplishing this: attacking al-Qaeda’s terror network, undermining radicalization and recruitment, and hardening homeland defense. The present monograph proposes a distinct "jihad-realist" approach for undermining radicalization and recruitment to al-Qaeda. First, a brief discussion of six means for ending terrorist organizations is provided. Second, the premises of a jihad-realist approach are described. Third, a jihad-realist shari’a case against al-Qaeda’s terrorism is presented. In conclusion, key assertions are summarized, and several specific policy recommendations offered for national security personnel charged with formulating and executing counterterrorist messaging strategy.
The al-Qaeda Organization (AQO) and the Islamic State Organization (ISO) are transnational adversaries that conduct terrorism in the name of Sunni Islam. It is declared U.S. Government (USG) policy to degrade, defeat, and destroy them. The present book has been written to assist policymakers, military planners, strategists, and professional military educators whose mission demands a deep understanding of strategically-relevant differences between these two transnational terrorist entities. In it, one shall find a careful comparative analysis across three key strategically relevant dimensions: essential doctrine, beliefs, and worldview; strategic concept, including terrorist modus operandi; and specific implications and recommendations for current USG policy and strategy. Key questions that are addressed include: How is each terrorist entity related historically and doctrinally to the broader phenomenon of transnational Sunni “jihadism”? What is the exact nature of the ISO? How, if at all, does ISO differ in strategically relevant ways from AQO? What doctrinal differences essentially define these entities? How does each understand and operationalize strategy? What critical requirements and vulnerabilities characterize each entity? Finally, what implications, recommendations, and proposals are advanced that are of particular interest to USG strategists and professional military educators?
This Strategic Studies Institute book provides a comprehensive research guide to radical Islamist English-language online magazines, eBooks, and assorted radical Islamist news magazines, reports, and pocketbooks published between April-May 2007 and November 2016, and generates strategic insights and policy response options.
On April 7, 2018, insurgents and civilians in a rebel enclave in Douma, east of Damascus, Syria, were subjected to a chemical weapons attack during an offensive conducted by Assad regime and allied Russian and Iranian-linked ground forces. At least 42 individuals were reported to have been killed in the attack due to suffocation—primarily in their homes—with more than 500 additional individuals seeking medical attention. Local reports from the encircled enclave suggest that during the late afternoon and evening hours, Assad regime helicopters dropped two barrel bombs containing a substance with signatures consistent with that of chlorine.
The idea to deny sanctuary to terrorist groups lies at the heart of contemporary U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Violent extremist organizations in North Africa, most notably the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have used remote and sparsely populated areas in the Sahara for protection from security forces to perform a range of activities such as training, planning, and logistics in order to conduct terrorist operations like kidnapping, murder, and bombing. Even after 16 years since the September 11 attacks and the resources dedicated to efforts to deny sanctuary, the concept of sanctuary remains largely unexplored. To deny sanctuary requires an understanding of what sanctuary is as an object and how sanctuary is used by terrorist organizations. This monograph proposes a functional understanding of sanctuary and offers fresh ideas to control sanctuary using a detailed case study of the most notorious of the North African terrorists, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, from his arrival to Mali in the late 1990s until the French intervention in early 2012. This multi-disciplinary inquiry utilizes a wide range of open-source documents as well as anthropological, sociological, and political science research, including interviews with one-time Belmokhtar hostage, Ambassador Robert Fowler, in order to construct a picture of what a day in the life of sanctuary-seeking terrorists is like. Belmokhtar and other violent groups remain active and at large in the Sahara in spite of a large French military presence, a small U.S. military presence, and local security forces conducting counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. Additionally, the Islamic State movement could be viewed as the emergence of mega sanctuaries for terrorists and other violent extremist organizations. These threats require a new strategy to isolate, contain, or defeat terrorists and violent extremists in their sanctuary areas.
Although collective security in the Gulf is the topic of numerous policy publications, most of the available literature focuses on the political environment without considering the operational requirements of this scenario. This monograph offers an evaluation of Gulf defense cooperation programs in order to stir the discussion on the future of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as the “NATO of the Gulf.”
The primary shortcoming of U.S. policymakers since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has been a consistent inability to translate tactical and operational military successes into sustainable strategic political outcomes. This was objectively true for both former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as evidenced by the long and tragic history of the continued conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq that has yielded wholly unsatisfying strategic outcomes. It remains to be seen if President Donald Trump and his senior officials can successfully reverse this trend. Doing so will require a long-term strategy that first establishes realistic and attainable objectives and then skillfully marshals all instruments of national power—military and non-military alike—to accomplish those goals.
This monograph examines the possibility of Egypt leading the Arab world again, and how that effort, if successful, will present opportunities and challenges for U.S. policy. At the present time, Egypt is not in a position to do so given its many domestic problems stemming from its turbulent politics since 2011 and the challenges facing its economy, which is currently experiencing high unemployment, weak tourism revenues because of terrorist incidents, and high rates of inflation as it implements an International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic reform package. However, Egypt has faced similar problems in the past and has recovered from them, enabling it to pursue an Arab leadership role. Hence, the United States should be prepared to deal with Egypt’s longstanding leadership quest, which this monograph argues will generally be a positive development for the United States in the region, though there will be some issues where the United States and Egypt will not see eye-to-eye. Given the intense Sunni-Shia conflicts in the region that are fed in large part by the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, having Egypt (a moderate Sunni Muslim country not pushing a religious agenda) in a leadership role in the region will help to dampen this sectarian strife. Moreover, because of its large and competent military, Egypt can be a source of stability and reassurance when other Arab states, particularly the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, are feeling vulnerable because of outside threats. Furthermore, Egypt can play a moderating influence in the region by being a bulwark against the radical extremist ideologies of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and like-minded groups. The United States can help Egypt succeed by continuing military assistance, offering counterterrorism training of whole units, and resuming military exercises like Bright Star. This monograph also argues for a boost in U.S. economic assistance to past levels—given Egypt’s strategic importance—to help it cope with economic reform measures even under U.S. budgetary woes. Although the United States and Egypt will continue to differ on the nature of Egypt’s domestic politics, particularly with regard to human rights and dissent and recognizing that the United States has limited influence in this regard, Washington should use whatever leverage it has to persuade the Egyptian Government to be less repressive, because an easing of authoritarian policies and practices will help Egyptian stability in the long run.
Diplomacy has all but failed in Syria, and it is difficult to envisage when and how diplomatic efforts could be restarted in light of the continued difficulties between Russia and the West. With these difficulties, it is imperative to change focus and tackle the one area where the United States might still be able to have a positive impact: the humanitarian situation in Syria. The first priority in this regard must be the establishment of safe zones within Syria, where civilian populations who fear being targeted by either side can find safe refuge until the conflict can move toward some kind of resolution. Achieving this first priority will require a much more serious commitment than any Western power has yet been willing to make. Failing to do so will carry even higher costs over the medium and long term: the continued migration of refugees into Europe, where the political impact of the migration crisis so far has already had serious political and social costs; as well as the possible spread of the instability contagion to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, and perhaps most seriously, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member Turkey.
Arab military cooperation has been, over the past century, mostly a history of failures. Whether the Arab League’s Defence Pact or the Middle East Command, ideas for collective security in the region all failed to move beyond the state of declarations. Most of the time, Arab states were either at open war or in cold peace. Since the Arab Spring has toppled not only regimes but also brought insecurity, new momentum has come into regional security. From joint exercises to the announcement of first an Arab and more recently an Islamic military alliance, states begin to move further into cooperation. As this Letort Paper shows, several obstacles will have to be overcome before collective security in the Middle East and North Africa can become a reality.