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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid