Opportunity and the Terrorist

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Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis. Charlene Rohr , Liisa Ecola , et al. Related Resources.

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As such there is no single typology to describe it. However, as mentioned earlier, the main causes of radicalisation and terrorism are mostly socio-economic. The absence of social, political and economic opportunities are a huge problem in many of the countries in which terrorist groups are active.

The lack of social, political and economic opportunities can lead to alienation, frustrations, humiliation and hopelessness. Additionally, conflicts and failed states create safe havens for extremist groups allowing groups such as ISIS and al Shabab to thrive and maintain their relevance.

Religion and Islam in particular is used by recruiters, foreign fighters and extremists to recruit, fight and justify their actions. So yes, religion does plays an important role. But I think religion could could also be used as a de-radicalisation tool if we manage to create counter-narratives based on religious traditions. Let's talk about the European dimension of radicalisation. Why do people - who live a comfortable life in Europe — join terrorist organisations to fight in wars they presumably know little of?

This is very difficult question to answer because there is no simple answer to it.


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If we look at the biographies of those who left Europe and North America to join extremist groups, we see that humanitarian considerations play a role. Here, pictures of human suffering in places like Syria have an effect but also the tendency to blame the west for not doing enough.

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The second important point to consider are personal grievances. Most young people that leave Europe to fight for a extremist group are angry, alienated and frustrated young men, mostly under 22 years of age. They are ideologically committed to the cause and have embarked on a new life while totally rejecting their previous one. What can be done in Europe to prevent individuals from leaving to become foreign fighters? Prevention has three dimensions: The first one is to prevent foreign fighters from leaving. However, stopping them from leaving will require us to understand the reasons that lead these individuals to become foreign fighters and radicalised.

The second thing to is to work with Muslim communities at a local level. Without the involvement and leadership of those communities it will be impossible to develop effective prevention and reintegration strategies. They should expect that officials will have realistic objectives, clear guidance, and effective organization.

They are entitled to see some standards for performance so they can judge, with the help of their elected representatives, whether the objectives are being met. But to catch terrorists, a U. Bombings like those in Bali in or Madrid in , while able to take hundreds of lives, can be mounted locally. Their requirements are far more modest in size and complexity.

They are more difficult to thwart. But the U. A complex international terrorist operation aimed at launching a catastrophic attack cannot be mounted by just anyone in any place. Such operations appear to require time, space, and ability to perform competent planning and staff work; a command structure able to make necessary decisions and possessing the authority and contacts to assemble needed people, money, and materials; opportunity and space to recruit, train, and select operatives with the needed skills and dedication, providing the time and structure required to socialize them into the terrorist cause, judge their trustworthiness, and hone their skills; a logistics network able to securely manage the travel of operatives, move money, and transport resources like explosives where they need to go; access, in the case of certain weapons, to the special materials needed for a nuclear, chemical, radiological, or biological attack; reliable communications between coordinators and operatives; and o opportunity to test the workability of the plan.

The organization cemented personal ties among veteran jihadists working together there for years. It had the operational space to gather and sift recruits, indoctrinating them in isolated, desert camps. It built up logistical networks, running through Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Al Qaeda also exploited relatively lax internal security environments in Western countries, especially Germany.

To find sanctuary, terrorist organizations have fled to some of the least governed, most lawless places in the world. The intelligence community has prepared a world map that highlights possible terrorist havens, using no secret intelligence-just indicating areas that combine rugged terrain, weak governance, room to hide or receive supplies, and low population density with a town or city near enough to allow necessary interaction with the outside world.

Large areas scattered around the world meet these criteria.

Some of the same places come up again and again on their lists: western Pakistan and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region southern or western Afghanistan the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and the nearby Horn of Africa, including Somalia and extending southwest into Kenya Southeast Asia, from Thailand to the southern Philippines to Indonesia West Africa, including Nigeria and Mali European cities with expatriate Muslim communities, especially cities in central and eastern Europe where security forces and border controls are less effective In the twentieth century, strategists focused on the world's great industrial heartlands.

In the twenty-first, the focus is in the opposite direction, toward remote regions and failing states. The United States has had to find ways to extend its reach, straining the limits of its influence. Every policy decision we make needs to be seen through this lens. If, for example, Iraq becomes a failed state, it will go to the top of the list of places that are breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home.

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National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

Similarly, if we are paying insufficient attention to Afghanistan, the rule of the Taliban or warlords and narcotraffickers may reemerge and its countryside could once again offer refuge to al Qaeda, or its successor. Recommendation:The U. For each, it should have a realistic strategy to keep possible terrorists insecure and on the run, using all elements of national power. We should reach out, listen to, and work with other countries that can help.

We offer three illustrations that are particularly applicable today, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan Pakistan's endemic poverty, widespread corruption, and often ineffective government create opportunities for Islamist recruitment. Poor education is a particular concern. Millions of families, especially those with little money, send their children to religious schools, or madrassahs.

Many of these schools are the only opportunity available for an education, but some have been used as incubators for violent extremism. According to Karachi's police commander, there are madrassahs teaching more than , youngsters in his city alone. Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons and has come frighteningly close to war with nuclear-armed India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. A political battle among anti-American Islamic fundamentalists, the Pakistani military, and more moderate mainstream political forces has already spilled over into violence, and there have been repeated recent attempts to kill Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf.

In recent years, the United States has had three basic problems in its relationship with Pakistan: On terrorism, Pakistan helped nurture the Taliban.

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The Pakistani army and intelligence services, especially below the top ranks, have long been ambivalent about confronting Islamist extremists. Many in the government have sympathized with or provided support to the extremists. Musharraf agreed that Bin Ladin was bad. On proliferation, Musharraf has repeatedly said that Pakistan does not barter with its nuclear technology.

But proliferation concerns have been long-standing and very serious.


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Most recently, the Pakistani government has claimed not to have known that one of its nuclear weapons developers, a national figure, was leading the most dangerous nuclear smuggling ring ever disclosed. Finally, Pakistan has made little progress toward the return of democratic rule at the national level, although that turbulent process does continue to function at the provincial level and the Pakistani press remains relatively free. Its government stood aside and allowed the U.

In other ways, Pakistan actively assisted: its authorities arrested more than al Qaeda operatives and Taliban members, and Pakistani forces played a leading part in tracking down KSM, Abu Zubaydah, and other key al Qaeda figures. When al Qaeda and its Pakistani allies repeatedly tried to assassinate Musharraf, almost succeeding, the battle came home. The country's vast unpoliced regions make Pakistan attractive to extremists seeking refuge and recruits and also provide a base for operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

He ordered the Pakistani army into the frontier provinces of northwest Pakistan along the Afghan border, where Bin Ladin and Ayman al Zawahiri have reportedly taken refuge. The army is confronting groups of al Qaeda fighters and their local allies in very difficult terrain. On the other side of the frontier, U. Yet in , it is clear that the Pakistani government is trying harder than ever before in the battle against Islamist terrorists. In an extraordinary public essay asking how Muslims can "drag ourselves out of the pit we find ourselves in, to raise ourselves up," Musharraf has called for a strategy of "enlightened moderation.

The United States has been and should remain a key supporter of that process. The constant refrain of Pakistanis is that the United States long treated them as allies of convenience. As the United States makes fresh commitments now, it should make promises it is prepared to keep, for years to come.

Recommendation: If Musharraf stands for enlightened moderation in a fight for his life and for the life of his country, the United States should be willing to make hard choices too, and make the difficult long-term commitment to the future of Pakistan. Sustaining the current scale of aid to Pakistan, the United States should support Pakistan's government in its struggle against extremists with a comprehensive effort that extends from military aid to support for better education, so long as Pakistan's leaders remain willing to make difficult choices of their own. In the fall of , the U.

Notable progress has been made. A central government has been established in Kabul, with a democratic constitution, new currency, and a new army. Most Afghans enjoy greater freedom, women and girls are emerging from subjugation, and 3 million children have returned to school. For the first time in many years, Afghans have reason to hope. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters have regrouped in the south and southeast.

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Warlords control much of the country beyond Kabul, and the land is awash in weapons. Economic development remains a distant hope. The narcotics trade-long a massive sector of the Afghan economy- is again booming.

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