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3 HOW TERRORIST GROUPS END Lessons for Countering al Qa ida SETH G. JONES MARTIN C. LIBICKI C O R P O R A T I O N
4 This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors, the fees earned on client-funded research, and independent research and development (IR&D) funds provided by the Department of Defense. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Jones, Seth G., 1972 How terrorist groups end : lessons for countering Al Qa ida / Seth G. Jones, Martin C. Libicki. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Terrorism. 2. Terrorism Prevention International cooperation. 3. Intelligence service. 4. Problem-oriented policing. 5. Qaida (Organization) I. Libicki, Martin C. II. Title. HV6431.J '16 dc The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. RAND s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors. is a registered trademark. R Cover design by Carol Earnest Copyright 2008 RAND Corporation All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from RAND. Published 2008 by the RAND Corporation 1776 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA South Hayes Street, Arlington, VA Fifth Avenue, Suite 600, Pittsburgh, PA RAND URL: To order RAND documents or to obtain additional information, contact Distribution Services: Telephone: (310) ; Fax: (310) ;
5 About the Authors Seth G. Jones is a political scientist at RAND and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He specializes in stability operations and counterinsurgency. He is the author of In the Graveyard of Empires: America s War in Afghanistan (W. W. Norton, forthcoming) and The Rise of European Security Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 2007). He has published articles in such journals as International Security, National Interest, Security Studies, Chicago Journal of International Law, International Affairs, and Survival, as well as such newspapers and magazines as the New York Times, Newsweek, Financial Times, and International Herald Tribune. His RAND publications include Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: RAND Counterinsurgency Study, Volume 4 (2008); Establishing Law and Order after Conflict (2005); The UN s Role in Nation-Building: From the Congo to Iraq (2005); and America s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq (2003). He received an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Martin C. Libicki is a senior management scientist at RAND, focusing on the relationship between information technology and national security. This work is documented in commercially published books, Conquest in Cyberspace: National Security and Information Warfare (2007) and Information Technology Standards: Quest for the Common Byte (1995), as well as in numerous monographs, notably What Is Information Warfare (1995), The Mesh and the Net: Speculations on Armed Conflict in a Time of Free Silicon (1994), and Exploring Terrorist Targeting Preferences (2007). He was also an editor of the RAND iii
6 iv How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa ida textbook, New Challenges, New Tools for Defense Decisionmaking (2003). His most recent assignments were to create and analyze a database of post World War II insurgencies, devise a strategy to maximize the use of information and information technology in countering insurgency, explore terrorists targeting preferences, develop a post September 11 information technology strategy for U.S. Department of Justice and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency s Terrorist Information Awareness program, conduct an information-security analysis for the FBI, and assess CIA s R&D venture, In-Q-Tel. Other work has examined information warfare and the revolution in military affairs. Prior employment includes 12 years at the National Defense University, three years on the Navy staff as program sponsor for industrial preparedness, and three years as a policy analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office s Energy and Minerals Division. He received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
7 Preface By analyzing 648 groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, this monograph examines how terrorist groups end. Its purpose is to inform U.S. counterterrorist efforts by understanding how groups have ended in the past and to assess implications for countering al Qa ida. This monograph results from the RAND Corporation s continuing program of self-initiated independent research. Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research and development provisions of RAND s contracts for the operation of its U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development centers. This research was conducted within the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD) of the RAND Corporation. NSRD conducts research and analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy, the U.S. Intelligence Community, allied foreign governments, and foundations. For more information on the RAND National Security Research Division, contact the Director of Operations, Nurith Berstein. She can be reached by at by phone at , extension 5469; or by mail at RAND, 1200 South Hayes Street, Arlington VA More information about the RAND Corporation is available at v
9 Contents About the Authors... iii Preface... v Figures... ix Tables... xi Summary...xiii Acknowledgments... xix Abbreviations... xxi CHAPTER ONE Introduction... 1 CHAPTER TWO How Terrorist Groups End... 9 CHAPTER THREE Policing and Japan s Aum Shinrikyo...45 CHAPTER FOUR Politics and the FMLN in El Salvador...63 CHAPTER FIVE Military Force and al Qa ida in Iraq...83 CHAPTER SIX The Limits of America s al Qa ida Strategy vii
10 viii How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa ida CHAPTER SEVEN Ending the War on Terrorism APPENDIXES A. End-of-Terror Data Set B. Al Qa ida Attacks, C. Regression Analysis References Index
11 Figures 2.1. How Terrorist Groups End (N = 268) Politics and Group Goals Settlement Between States and Terrorist Groups Breakdown of the 648 Groups Survivability of Religious Groups Income Level of Groups Income Level and End of Groups Size and Income Level of Groups Size and Type of Groups Size and Goals of Groups Size and End of Groups FMLN Goals and Settlement Prospects Map of al Anbar Province and Vicinity Al Qa ida Attacks, (excluding Iraq and Afghanistan) Al Qa ida s Geographic Expanse Al Qa ida s Base of Support, ix
13 Tables 5.1. Insurgent Groups and Income Insurgent Groups and Size Insurgent Groups and Goals The End of Insurgent Groups A.1. Organizations in the Data Set B.1. Al Qa ida Attacks, C.1. Peak-Size Variable C.2. All Explanatory Variables C.3. Peak-Size and Is-Religious Variables C.4. Peak-Size and Is-Nationalist Variables xi
15 Summary All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? Answers to this question have enormous implications for counterterrorism efforts. The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members. Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post September 11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy. The ending of most terrorist groups requires a range of policy instruments, such as careful police and intelligence work, military force, political negotiations, and economic sanctions. Yet policy makers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention. Following an examination of 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, we found that a transition to the political process is the most common way in which terrorist groups ended (43 percent). The possibility of a political solution is inversely linked to the breadth of terrorist goals. Most terrorist groups that end because of politics seek narrow policy goals. The narrower the goals of a terrorist organization, the more likely it can achieve them without violent action and the more likely the government and terrorist group may be able to reach a negotiated settlement. Against terrorist groups that cannot or will not make a transition to nonviolence, policing is likely to be the most effective strategy (40 percent). Police and intelligence services have better training and xiii
16 xiv How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa ida information to penetrate and disrupt terrorist organizations than do such institutions as the military. They are the primary arm of the government focused on internal security matters. Local police and intelligence agencies usually have a permanent presence in cities, towns, and villages; a better understanding of the threat environment in these areas; and better human intelligence. Other reasons are less common. For example, in 10 percent of the cases, terrorist groups ended because their goals were achieved, and military force led to the end of terrorist groups in 7 percent of the cases. Militaries tended to be most effective when used against terrorist groups engaged in an insurgency in which the groups were large, well armed, and well organized. Insurgent groups have been among the most capable and lethal terrorist groups, and military force has usually been a necessary component in such cases. Against most terrorist groups, however, military force is usually too blunt an instrument. Military tools have increased in precision and lethality, especially with the growing use of precision standoff weapons and imagery to monitor terrorist movement. But even precision weapons have been of limited use against terrorist groups. The use of substantial U.S. military power against terrorist groups also runs a significant risk of turning the local population against the government by killing civilians. Our quantitative analysis looked at groups that have ended since 1968 or are still active. It yielded several other interesting findings: Religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups. Approximately 62 percent of all terrorist groups have ended since 1968, but only 32 percent of religious terrorist groups have ended. Religious groups rarely achieve their objectives. No religious group that has ended achieved victory since Size is a significant determinant of a group s fate. Big groups of more than 10,000 members have been victorious more than 25 percent of the time, while victory is rare when groups are smaller than 1,000 members. There is no statistical correlation between the duration of a terrorist group and ideological motivation, economic conditions,
17 Summary xv regime type, or the breadth of terrorist goals. But there appears to be some correlation between the size of a terrorist group and duration: Larger groups tend to last longer than smaller groups. When a terrorist group becomes involved in an insurgency, it does not end easily. Nearly 50 percent of the time, groups ended by negotiating a settlement with the government; 25 percent of the time, they achieved victory; and 19 percent of the time, military forces defeated them. Terrorist groups from upper-income countries are much more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and much less likely to be motivated by religion. Implications for al Qa ida What does this mean for counterterrorism efforts against al Qa ida? After September 11, 2001, the U.S. strategy against al Qa ida centered on the use of military force. Indeed, U.S. policymakers and key national-security documents referred to operations against al Qa ida as the war on terrorism. Other instruments were also used, such as cutting off terrorist financing, providing foreign assistance, engaging in diplomacy, and sharing information with foreign governments. But military force was the primary instrument. The evidence by 2008 suggested that the U.S. strategy was not successful in undermining al Qa ida s capabilities. Our assessment concludes that al Qa ida remained a strong and competent organization. Its goals were the same: uniting Muslims to fight the United States and its allies (the far enemy) and overthrowing western-friendly regimes in the Middle East (the near enemy) to establish a pan-islamic caliphate. Al Qa ida has been involved in more terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001, than it was during its prior history. These attacks spanned Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Al Qa ida s modus operandi also evolved and included a repertoire of more-sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and a growing use of suicide attacks. Its organizational structure evolved, making it a more dangerous enemy. This included a bottom-up approach (encouraging independent action
18 xvi How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa ida from low-level operatives) and a top-down one (issuing strategy and operations from a central hub in Pakistan). 1 Ending the War on Terror Al Qa ida s resurgence should trigger a fundamental rethinking of U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Based on our analysis of how terrorist groups end, a political solution is not possible. Since al Qa ida s goal remains the establishment of a pan-islamic caliphate, there is little reason to expect that a negotiated settlement with governments in the Middle East is possible. A more effective approach would be adopting a twofront strategy. First, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts. In Europe, North America, North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, al Qa ida consists of a network of individuals who need to be tracked and arrested. This would require careful work abroad from such organizations as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as their cooperation with foreign police and intelligence agencies. Second, military force, though not necessarily U.S. soldiers, may be a necessary instrument when al Qa ida is involved in an insurgency. Local military forces frequently have more legitimacy to operate than the United States has, and they have a better understanding of the operating environment, even if they need to develop the capacity to deal with insurgent groups over the long run. This means a light U.S. military footprint or none at all. The U.S. military can play a critical role in building indigenous capacity but should generally resist being drawn into combat operations in Muslim societies, since its presence is likely to increase terrorist recruitment. A key part of this strategy should include ending the notion of a war on terrorism and replacing it with such concepts as counterterrorism, which most governments with significant terrorist threats use. The Brit- 1 Bruce Hoffman, Challenges for the U.S. Special Operations Command Posed by the Global Terrorist Threat: Al Qaeda on the Run or on the March? written testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities, February 14, 2007, p. 3.
19 Summary xvii ish government, among others, has already taken this step and abjured the phrase war on terror. The phrase raises public expectations both in the United States and elsewhere that there is a battlefield solution to the problem of terrorism. It also encourages others abroad to respond by conducting a jihad (or holy war) against the United States and elevates them to the status of holy warriors. Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors. Our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism. Military force usually has the opposite effect from what is intended: It is often overused, alienates the local population by its heavy-handed nature, and provides a window of opportunity for terrorist-group recruitment. This strategy should also include rebalancing U.S. resources and attention on police and intelligence work. It also means increasing budgets at the CIA, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of State and scaling back the U.S. Department of Defense s focus and resources on counterterrorism. U.S. special operations forces will remain critical, as will U.S. military operations to counter terrorist groups involved in insurgencies. There is reason to be hopeful. Our analysis concludes that al Qa ida s probability of success in actually overthrowing any government is close to zero. Out of all the religious groups that ended since 1968, none ended by achieving victory. Al Qa ida has virtually unachievable objectives in trying to overthrow multiple regimes in the Middle East. To make matters worse, virtually all governments across Europe, North America, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa consider al Qa ida an enemy. As al Qa ida expert Peter Bergen has noted, Making a world of enemies is never a winning strategy. 2 2 Peter Bergen, Al Qaeda Status, written testimony submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, April 9, 2008.
21 Acknowledgments This book would not have been possible without the help of numerous individuals. Nathan Chandler provided key research support and was intimately involved in building and revising the data set. His role was fundamental, and his fingerprints are on virtually every page of the document. Daniel Byman and Lindsay Clutterbuck provided thorough reviews, which significantly improved the quality of the document. Bruce Hoffman, Gary Berntsen, and James Dobbins provided useful information and critiques. Audrey Kurth Cronin and Timothy Crawford offered excellent comments at the American Political Science Association conference in We owe a special debt of gratitude to those government officials from the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, India, Canada, and European countries who took time out of their busy schedules to provide us critical information about al Qa ida and counterterrorism efforts. In the United States, these included individuals at the National Ground Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, White House, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. Department of State. Most did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information they provided, so we cannot thank them by name. xix
23 Abbreviations ANC AQI ARENA ATAG BNP CI CIA COPAZ CPA EOKA ETA FBI African National Congress al Qa ida in Iraq Alianza Republicana Nacionalista [Nationalist Republican Alliance] Association Totalement Anti-Guerre [Totally Anti- War Group] Bangladesh Nationalist Party confidence interval Central Intelligence Agency Comisión Nacional para la Consolidación de la Paz [National Commission for the Consolidation of Peace] Coalition Provisional Authority Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston [National Organization of Cypriot Fighters] Euskadi Ta Askatasuna [Basque Fatherland and Freedom] Federal Bureau of Investigation xxi
24 xxii How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa ida FLN Front de Libération Nationale [National Liberation Front] FLQ Front de Libération du Québec [Liberation Front of Quebec] FMLN Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] GIA Groupe Islamique Armé [Armed Islamic Group] GNI gross national income GSPC Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat [al-qa ida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb] Hamas Harakat al-muqawama al-islamiyya IAI Islamic Army in Iraq ICITAP International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program IED improvised explosive device IRA Irish Republican Army ISI Islamic State of Iraq JAMI Al-Jabhah al-islamiyah al-muqawamah al-iraqiyah [Islamic Front for Iraqi Resistance: Salah-Al-Din Al-Ayyubi Brigades] JeM Jaish-e-Mohammad JSDF Japan Self-Defense Forces Lehi Lohamei Herut Israel M-19 Movimiento 19 de Abril [April 19 Movement] MSC Mujahedeen Shura Council NSRD RAND National Security Research Division
25 Abbreviations xxiii ONUSAL OPEC PKK QPP RCMPSS RENAMO RUF UCLAT USAID United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan [Kurdistan Workers Party] Quebec Provincial Police, a loose translation of Sûreté du Québec Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service Resistencia Nacional Mozambicana [Mozambique National Resistance Movement] Revolutionary United Front l Unité de Coordination de la Lutte Antiterroriste [Antiterrorist Coordination Unit] U.S. Agency for International Development
27 CHAPTER ONE Introduction There has been a great deal of work on why individuals or groups resort to terrorism. 1 There has also been a growing literature on whether terrorism works. 2 But there has been virtually no systematic analysis by policymakers or academics on how terrorism ends. 3 Methodological problems plague most of the works that have addressed the end of 1 Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, 2nd ed., New York: Columbia University Press, 2006; Walter Reich, ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998; Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004; Jessica Stern, Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003; Martha Crenshaw, The Causes of Terrorism, in Charles W. Kegley, ed., International Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls, New York: St. Martin s, 1990, pp On suicide terrorism, see, for example, Robert A. Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, New York: Random House, 2005; and Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror, New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, pp Ehud Sprinzak, Rational Fanatics, Foreign Policy, No. 120, September October 2000, pp ; Pape (2005); Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2002; David A. Lake, Rational Extremism: Understanding Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century, Dialogue IO, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2002, pp ; Andrew Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, The Strategies of Terrorism, International Security, Vol. 31, No. 1, Summer 2006, pp ; Robert Trager and Dessislava P. Zagorcheva, Deterring Terrorism: It Can Be Done, International Security, Vol. 30, No. 3, Winter , pp There has been some work. See, for example, Audrey Kurth Cronin, Ending Terrorism: Lessons for Defeating al-qaeda, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge for International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008; Martha Crenshaw, Why Violence Is Rejected or Renounced: A Case Study of Oppositional Terrorism, in Thomas Gregor, ed., A Natural History of Peace, Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1996, pp ; U.S. Institute of Peace, How Terrorism Ends, Washington, D.C.,
28 2 How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa ida terrorist groups. They focus on one case, such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), or perhaps a handful of cases in which a terrorist group abandons the use of terror. As with many case studies, a small number of observations can lead to indeterminate results. They do not control for random error, which can make it extremely difficult to determine which of several alternative explanations is the most viable. The value of this study is that it looks at all terrorist groups since It is more systematic than previous analyses. In our view, the United States cannot conduct an effective long-term counterterrorism campaign against al Qa ida or other terrorist groups without understanding how terrorist groups end. This research seeks to fill this gap. It asks, How have terrorist groups ended in the past? What are the implications for dealing with al Qa ida? As explained in more detail in Chapter Two, terrorist groups can end in several ways. Military or police forces defeat some; some splinter by joining existing terrorist groups or forming new ones; some calculate that they can better achieve their goals through nonviolence; and a few achieve victory. But sorting out how frequently and how groups end remains a puzzle. This research has significant implications for U.S. foreign policy. In a memo to senior U.S. Department of Defense officials, for instance, former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld asked, Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? It continued, Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a longrange plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. 4 4 Donald H. Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, Global War on Terrorism, memorandum to General Richard B. Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, General Peter Pace, and Douglas J. Feith, October 16, 2003.
29 Introduction 3 At the core of these concerns is confusion about which counterterrorism strategies are most likely to be effective. One major reason is that there has been little systematic analysis of how terrorist groups have ended in the past. Definitions While there is no broadly accepted definition of terrorism, this monograph argues that terrorism involves the use of politically motivated violence against noncombatants to cause intimidation or fear among a target audience. 5 There are several fundamental aspects of terrorism. Terrorism has a political nature and involves the perpetration of acts designed to encourage political change. It involves the targeting of civilians. And it is restricted to organizations other than a national government. Although one could broaden the definition of terrorism to include the actions of a national government against its own or another population, adopting such a broad definition would distract attention from what policymakers would most like to know: how to combat the threat that violent substate groups pose. Further, it could also create analytic confusion. Terrorist organizations and state governments have different levels of resources, face different kinds of incentives, and are susceptible to different types of pressures. Accordingly, the determinants of their behavior are not likely to be the same and, thus, require separate theoretical investigations. 6 A terrorist group is defined as a collection of individuals belonging to a nonstate entity that uses terrorism to achieve its objectives. Such an entity has at least some command and control apparatus that, no 5 There are many definitions of terrorism. See, for example, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 9; Hoffman (2006, pp. 1 41); Pape (2005, p. 9); and Audrey Kurth Cronin, Behind the Curve: Globalization and International Terrorism, International Security, Vol. 27, No. 3, Winter , pp , p Robert A. Pape, The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 3, August 2003, pp