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Research Report

Topics in Terrorism:: Toward a Transatlantic Consensus on the Nature of the Threat

Jason S. Purcell
Joshua D. Weintraub
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2005
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 99
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    Christopher J. Makins

    The Atlantic Council conference series, Topics in Terrorism: Toward a Transatlantic Consensus on the Nature of the Threat, was born of the conviction that transatlantic cooperation in confronting international terrorism will be more effective to the extent that it is built on a foundation of shared concepts, frames of reference and fundamental understanding. As specific counter-terrorist measures will inevitably be worked out between governments, this series instead proposes to compare and explore different analyses of the nature – and likely future development – of the threat. Each conference, held in Europe, focuses on two or three select topics, from likely...

  2. Section 1: Understanding Terrorists and Terrorist Groups

    • (pp. 1-22)
      Anne Speckhard

      Suicidal terrorism is one of the fastest growing and least understood threats to peace in modern-day democracies. Currently there is an extremely small empirical research database on which policymakers may base their understanding of suicidal terrorism, its genesis and prevention. Yet there has been an exponential growth in suicide terrorism in recent years. Peacekeeping and coalition forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan directly confront suicide terrorism as it has become a major factor undermining rebuilding efforts and attempts to bring peace to the region. Israel and Russia have been plagued with an increase in suicide terrorism, which has been a...

    • (pp. 23-34)
      Joseph McMillan

      If you were to ask an alumnus of any advanced military educational institution almost anywhere in the world, “What do you call the extension of politics by violent means?”, the answer would be instantaneous: “War”! Yet even since 9/11, it has been only slowly and over considerable intellectual resistance that the logical corollary of this maxim has gained acceptance: that terrorism must be a form of warfare. After all, what is terrorism if not one way of pursuing political objectives – broadly defined – by violent means?

      Put that way, it seems obvious that terrorist groups should be considered as...

  3. Section 2: Future Terrorist Weapons

    • (pp. 35-38)
      Jill Dekker-Bellamy

      In 1972, when the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was opened for signature, a primary concern was state research and development of offensive biological weapons. Since that time, the threat of terrorist or “rogue” state use of unconventional weapons has changed significantly. Advances in bio-technology and in conventional weapons – such as Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that are capable of carrying CBRN payloads – along with the proliferation of missile technology, have increased the risk of unconventional weapons use. At the same time, there is a serious risk of “sub-state” terrorist acquisition and use of less technologically advanced weapons or...

    • (pp. 39-54)
      Darryl Howlett and Jez Littlewood

      Terrorist use of WMD or CBRN devices is now regarded as a key aspect of the contemporary international security agenda. Events in the 1990’s that resulted in mass casualties, such as the bombing of community housing in Buenos Aires in 1994; the attack against the U.S. government building in Oklahoma in April 1995; the truck bomb against the Central Bank in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1996; the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the bombing of a Moscow apartment complex in 1999, revealed the extent of damage and loss of life that could be...

    • (pp. 55-62)

      In the absence of a crystal ball and wishing to avoid speculation, responsible analysts are compelled to examine history and to pour over statistics to make projections about what terrorists are most likely to do in the years to come. Such sources point to conventional weapons as the tools that terrorists probably will turn to for the foreseeable future, followed in declining order by chemical, radiological, and biological weapons. Depending on whether one sees the glass as half empty or half full, the terrorist track record with unconventional weapons can provide both reassurance and concern.

      When projecting the likelihood of...

  4. Section 3: Future Terrorist Targets

    • (pp. 63-70)
      Aris A. Pappas

      What targets are terrorists most likely to strike? That is the question that has been posed, but cannot be answered, simply because no one can see the future with that clarity. Hardly surprising, but profoundly true. Our inability to see into tomorrow is the reason the question is so important: we don’t know where the terrorists will strike, we don’t know what they will strike, and we don’t know when they will strike. Anyone who can answer with certainty just one of those questions would earn the gratitude of the millions who could have been counted among the next casualties....

    • (pp. 71-78)
      S. Gorka

      Western experts and intelligence community analysts are still coming to terms with the nature of al-Qa’eda and the ways in which it differs as an organization from the terrorist groups we were familiar with during the Cold War. One of the most obvious differences between the likes of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), and al-Qa’eda are the alleged end-states that they wish to achieve. The former groups strove, or still strive, to achieve goals that are at least theoretically possible, and are solely political in nature (such as the re-annexation of Northern Ireland to Eire, greater...