How Terrorist Groups End

How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida

Seth G. Jones
Martin C. Libicki
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    How Terrorist Groups End
    Book Description:

    All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa?ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: Policymakers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention. The authors report that religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups and rarely achieve their objectives. The largest groups achieve their goals more often and last longer than the smallest ones do. Finally, groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and less likely to have religion as their motivation. The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa?ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase ?war on terrorism? since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa?ida.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4640-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. About the Authors
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  10. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    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 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...

  11. CHAPTER TWO How Terrorist Groups End
    (pp. 9-44)

    How do terrorist groups end? All terrorist groups eventually end. But do they end because police or military forces defeat them? Do they end by achieving victory? Or do they end for other reasons? As noted earlier, there has been little systematic work on how terrorist groups end. Understanding how terrorist groups have ended has significant implications for the U.S. struggle against such groups as al Qa’ida.

    This chapter reviews the history of terrorist groups since 1968 and argues that terrorist groups usually end for two major reasons: They decide to adopt nonviolent tactics and join the political process, or...

  12. CHAPTER THREE Policing and Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo
    (pp. 45-62)

    At 7:45 a.m. on March 20, 1995, five members of the terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo boarded trains at different ends of Tokyo’s sprawling subway system. They coordinated their attack so that the trains would converge a half-hour later at a single central stop: the Kasumigaseki station in the heart of Tokyo’s government district. The station was strategically situated several blocks from the Japanese parliament building, government agencies, and the Imperial Palace. The Aum Shinrikyo terrorists who carried out the attacks included a young graduate student in physics at Tokyo University, a former cardiovascular surgeon who had graduated from Keio University...

  13. CHAPTER FOUR Politics and the FMLN in El Salvador
    (pp. 63-82)

    In a solemn ceremony in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle, representatives of El Salvador’s government and the FMLN signed a peace settlement in January 1992. The agreement ended 12 years of civil conflict that left approximately 75,000 people dead and spelled the end of the FMLN as a terrorist organization.¹ The FMLN employed a variety of tactics, such as kidnappings, arson, and bombings, to coerce the Salvadoran government into making significant political, social, and economic changes. They targeted government officials and members of El Salvador’s oligarchy. During an offensive operation in November 1989, for example, FMLN fighters occupied several upper-class neighborhoods...

  14. CHAPTER FIVE Military Force and al Qa’ida in Iraq
    (pp. 83-102)

    U.S. operations in al Anbar province provide a useful illustration of when military forces can be appropriate against terrorist groups. While politics and policing may be more effective in most cases, military force can be critical when facing a terrorist group involved in an insurgency. Such groups are often well equipped, well organized, and well motivated, and police acting alone would be quickly overpowered.

    This chapter argues that the U.S. military was effective in countering al Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), notably in Iraq’s al Anbar province. Though AQI had not been defeated at the time this book was published, its...

  15. CHAPTER SIX The Limits of America’s al Qa’ida Strategy
    (pp. 103-120)

    So far, this book has examined how terrorist groups end. The rest of the book turns to implications for dealing with al Qa’ida based on this analysis. This chapter argues that al Qa’ida has been involved in more terrorist attacks in a wider geographical area since September 11, 2001, than it had been during its previous history. These attacks spanned Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Al Qa’ida’s modus operandi evolved and included a repertoire of more-sophisticated IEDs and a growing use of suicide attacks. Its organizational structure has also evolved, making it a more dangerous enemy. This includes...

  16. CHAPTER SEVEN Ending the “War” on Terrorism
    (pp. 121-140)

    The U.S. strategy after September 2001 was not effective in significantly weakening al Qa’ida by 2008. Some have argued that an effective strategy against al Qa’ida should include a broad range of tools that target the demand and supply side of the organization. As Rohan Gunaratna argued, for example, this strategy includes sanctions against state sponsors; the use of military and police forces against al Qa’ida’s leaders, members, collaborators, and supporters; the resolution of regional conflicts in such locations as Kashmir and Palestinian territory; redressing grievances and meeting the legitimate aspirations of Muslims; and countering al Qa’ida’s ideology.¹ Similarly, Daniel...

  17. APPENDIX A End-of-Terror Data Set
    (pp. 141-186)
  18. APPENDIX B Al Qa’ida Attacks, 1994–2007
    (pp. 187-196)
  19. APPENDIX C Regression Analysis
    (pp. 197-200)
  20. References
    (pp. 201-222)
  21. Index
    (pp. 223-226)