News / USA

    Analysts: An Evolution in US Counterterrorism

    FILE - Navy SEALs training. SEALs are maritime special operations forces who strike from the sea, air and land.
    FILE - Navy SEALs training. SEALs are maritime special operations forces who strike from the sea, air and land.
    William Eagle
    The United States recently launched two raids on suspected terrorist hideouts in Somalia and Libya. In Somalia, Navy SEALS attempted to seize a senior leader of the radical terrorist group al-Shabab. In Libya, U.S. forces captured a senior al-Qaida figure wanted in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 15 years ago. Analysts from the RAND Corporation in Washington say the raids show an evolution in US policy - away from killing terrorists with a drone strike to taking them alive.

    Alleged al-Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi is now in the US after spending several days under interrogation on an American warship in the Mediterranean.

    Capture or kill?

    Angel Rabasa, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation with a focus on radicalization in Africa, says incidents in other parts of the world show the importance of capturing terrorists. For example, in Indonesia, the government has successfully pursued the leaders of the armed Islamic group Al Jamaah Islamyia. 

    “The Indonesian police and intelligence agencies have been very successful in breaking up the group and capturing leadership. They say 90 percent of the information they obtained about the group came from people who were captured and corroborated [details] with the authorities, or by defectors. The practice of the U.S.  using drones to get terrorists has been counterproductive - once you kill these fellows, you don’t have the ability to derive any information from them,” said Rabasa.

    "Examples abound of captured terrorists providing critical information," he continued. "One of the leaders purged by al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubayr in Somalia was Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a senior leader and founder of the now disbanded group preceding it, al-Itihaad al-Islamiya.  After the purge, he fled and surrendered to Mogadishu authorities. He is now a prisoner and could be a source of invaluable information in the counter-terrorism effort."
     
    Some analysts think experiences from Afghanistan and Indonesia have shown that direct U.S. military involvement - including putting troops into a conflict zone -- can increase local support for radical extremists, especially in regions with large Muslim populations.    

    Limits to engagement

    “There is a danger to inserting the U.S. into direct conflict with some of these groups that are not actively plotting against the U.S. [domestically].…" said Seth Jones, the associate director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center.

    "One lesson from a different theater applies to Africa and to groups like al-Shabab: the U.S. in 2009 took out the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud with a drone strike with Pakistan’s  support. [However, in response] the next year, [the group] put a SUV with explosives inside Times Square [driven by] Faisal Shahzad.  He had problems building that bomb, but we went from an organization that was very parochial [and pushed them] to respond by targeting the US homeland. 

    "So," he continuied, "we have to be careful with how we deal with some of these organizations that are not actively plotting [an attack within the US]."
     
    Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst with RAND with expertise on joint force development and special operations forces, points out that there are alternatives to high-profile interventions by the U.S. For example, Washington can work with other countries that share an interest in eliminating terrorism in their region.

    A tapestry of choices
     
    “The broad tapestry of the menu I characterize as ‘soft partnering’ includes a wide variety of [options for US defense and intelligence officials]," explained Robinson.

    "They can provide direct support, like aerial feed reconnaissance. They can put together intelligence packets. They may accompany the host nation or partner forces up to a target, but let them prosecute the target…They can stay behind the wire and just provide training; they can help write campaign plans. They can advise ministries. So there’s a whole gamut that falls short of doing a joint combat raid, which is yet another mode that they’ve been doing alongside the Afghan commandos in Afghanistan.”

    Robinson also noted that Special Ops Forces are key players in the partnerships - and have played an important role in training forces in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia against al-Shabab extremists in East Africa.  They’ve also worked to strengthen civil defense in rural areas of Afghanistan.

    “In Afghanistan, village stability operations and local police was the largest such initiative since [the war in Vietnam in the 1960’s]. They have over 25,000 now standing local defenders. To me, that experiment has really rescued a forgotten skill set of the Special Ops forces so they can go out into the villages and live with [civilians] and help those willing to stand up and defend themselves. That is a sustainable solution where you get countries [providing for their own internal security], denying safe haven to terrorists,” said Robinson. 

    Mindful of history

    Analysts, however, warn that to be effective, partnerships must also take into consideration cultural and political dynamics of a region.

    “For example, in working with Ethiopians in Somalia, there is historical baggage. They have been used by Shabab in Somalia as a recruitment and propaganda tool. One of the leaders of the Minnesota Somali community said that most of the folks in Minneapolis, who have fought in Somalia, have been recruited for nationalist rather than religious reasons… ," noted RAND analyst Seth Jones.

    "So if you increasingly rely on the Kenyans and Ethiopians in countries like Somalia, the concern from some of the communities in the U.S. is that it [leads] into a nationalist fight…which has been the primary recruitment purpose for some of the Americans who have gone over to fight over there."

    Unappealing alliances

    Analysts say an important goal of U.S. policymakers should be to stop another form of partnership - those between Islamists with local grievances and global terrorists, who advocate a war against the West.

    Angel Rabasa said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao, the Philippines, decided to break ties with a radical group in Indonesia. The move followed al-Qaida’s attacks on New York City and Washington in September 2001.

    “The MILF prior to 9/11 had a relationship with the al Qaida-associated group in Southeast Asia, the Jemaah Islamyia. The JI established training camps in Mindanao in close association with MILF commanders.  But after 9/11 the leadership of MILF decided it was not in the interest of the group to be associated with al-Qaida and to bring on the opposition of the United States.  So, they broke relations with al-Qaida,” said Rabasa.
     
    Rabasa said all local Islamic extremists are asking themselves whether the training and funding they get from an alliance with al-Qaida is worth the expense. The answer, he says, may depend on how successful the U.S. and its allies are in making such alliances very unappealing.

    RAND analysts comment on US terrorism strategies
    RAND analysts comment on US terrorism strategies i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Moshe Ben-Israel from: Tucson, AZ
    October 21, 2013 3:17 PM
    Taking prisoners has several major downsides: 1. More people, innocent, friendly & enemy will needlessly die in a capture operation as the Blackhawk down incident demonstrates. 2. Al-Qaeda prisoners are for life. 3. Gitmo never quits rearing its ugly head, etc. SOLUTION: Just kill them on sight as often as possible, until there are no more to kill. The USA's money and political ambitions are the main contributors to the formation of Maktab al-Khidamat, which soon became al-Qaeda. The US should stop the world wide intervention and just go after al-Qaeda, dead or deader. They are the USA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's rabid dog that needs to be put down. Let the nations fighting al-Qaeda set their own agenda. Radical Islam is an idea, not to be killed by weapons, but a better idea, which the US does not possess. Moshe, aka Rabid Rebbe http://rabidrebbe.com

    by: Rackie Allie from: Liberia
    October 15, 2013 5:06 AM
    I am very excited to see that the US is concerned not only about its territory but also the world at large countering terrorist wherever they may be found.

    If we can all work together to fight against terrorism we can make the world a better place for our children to live in.

    I personally support the US actions against combating terrorist who don't have the fear of God in them. Long Live the United States of America.
    In Response

    by: todi from: Botswana
    October 15, 2013 10:54 AM
    Mr Eagle, I don't think there is any particular problem with model of cooperation you are proposing. However, there are number of problems;
    1. Political will of the host nation
    2. Capacity and capability of leading force to carry out such an operation
    3. Security of the operation itself
    4. The political backlash of being seen as American puppet
    5. The benefit to the host nation (eg financial and infrastructure wise)

    Most importantly, the "terrorism sector" has been taken over by rent-an-expert who are giving "expert analysis" based on crude and factually incorrect information. It is a serious area of concern, because had it not been their insistence that Al Shabab is a dying force may be we could have avoided the Westgate attacks. Feel free to contact me.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora