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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Effective Counter Terror Operations

  • How effective are elite counterterrorism units? What impact do elite units have on international terrorism? Discuss.

Special operations units have been extremely effective against terrorism. From the assassination of Osama Bin Laden to the raid on Entebbe, units of highly trained men have performed key missions against terrorists. “the Sayeret Mat'kal (the General Staff's own reconnaissance commando unit) mobilized, rehearsed its plans, flew 2,500 miles, and struck at the Entebbe airport, rescuing more than 100 passengers and crew with a minimum loss of life”(Henriksen, 2007, p.18)

  • What counterterrorism or combating terrorism measures work most effectively with the elite counterterrorism units, and which measures work least effectively for missions like hostage rescues, punitive strikes, abductions, and reconnaissance operations? Provide reasons and examples to support your answers.
The most effective counterterror measures that elite units can undertake are leadership decapitation tactics and reconnaissance missions. “targeted killings, whether conducted by Israel, the United States, Great Britain, or other nations, are more frequently the result of action un-dertaken not by conventional military forces, but rather by specialized troops, such as special operations forces (Sof)” (Hunter, 2009, p. 3). Hostage rescues have been the least effective, but they are also a potent tool in public relations/propaganda. One area that is overlooked in the context of elite unit operations is the role of training foreign, allied agencies to carry out operations that benefit the U.S.; elite units “have historically specialized in enabling partner nation foreign military capacity through the teaching of technical fighting and military administration skills “(Grespin, 2014, p.38)
  • What are the challenges of creating a counterterrorism policy? Counterterrorism measures and policies are being created and implemented internationally. Do you think that counterterrorism policies are effective and can help control and combat terrorism? Why/why not? In what ways do they control and combat terrorism and in what areas are they weak? Explain.
The major challenge to designing, implementing, and maintaining a counterterrorism policy is that it can be likened to shoveling sand back into the sea, as it is a task that will never end. “Counterterrorism should be seen not as an effort to rid the world of terrorism, but as an ongoing struggle to constrict the operating environment in which terrorists raise funds, procure documents, engage in support activities, and conduct attacks” (Levitt, 2004, p.33). A secondary challenge to creating counterterror policy is the political consideration. Is there a political party willing to lie about national security in order to win votes? A country in which politicians conduct propaganda operations against their own defenders can not expect to create an effective counterterror policy. “a culture of denial exists on the left about the problem of Islamic terrorism. This takes four key forms: mystification (the failure or refusal to acknowledge its true character); displacement (the transformation of the perpetrators into avengers and the victims into wrong-doers); evasion (the reluctance or unwillingness to recognize its significance);and minimization (the unwillingness to recognize the scope of the problem)(Cottee, 2005, p.119).
Once these challenges have been recognized, effective counterterrorism policy requires operational bases. Roberts discusses these as “ three components of any government that must come together to form an alliance of shared capabilities, risk analysis, and political resolve” (2011, p. 125).
  • Examine the current counterterrorism policy of the U.S. and discuss its effectiveness. In the light of the current counterterrorism policy in the U.S., how easy or how difficult is it for terrorist groups to execute acts of terror in the U.S.? Why?
The effectiveness of American counterterror policy has certainly reversed direction over the last six years. Iraq was abandoned despite the protestations of the security community, who were proven to be proven right; military capabilities have been cut severely; terrorists were traded for a known deserter; the current administration can't even be honest about naming the ideology that the majority of terrorists we are fighting follow. “We are at a point in our history where 'timidity' will prove an undesirable and fatal flaw in the defense of this nation”(Hughbank, 2009, p.49). However, it is not the failure to pursue the enemy in his own lair that opens America up as an easy terrorist target. We are an open society and we choose not to be hindered by onerous security restrictions. Terrorists, foreign and domestic, can use our freedom to move to attack us.
Which is why it is critical that we recognize and make war against ideologies that are hostile to the American ideals of freedom and capitalism, whether those enemies be foreign or domestic. This is reflected in the oath of service:
"I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God" (Army Regulation 601-210).
  • Do you agree that the U.S. counterterrorism policy is a just policy and protects the privacy rights of the citizens? Why/why not? What do you think should be given precedence—security of citizens or privacy rights of citizens? Why?
The domestic security history of the United States has been taken up with the argument between citizen rights and security needs from our inception as a country, and this debate can seen in such examples as The Alien and Sedition Acts up through the publicly contested NDAA. Privacy concerns have been around as long as the technology itself. “telephone surveillance is as old as telephony itself, dating back to the nearly simultaneous commercialization of the telephone and phonograph” (Agur, 2013, abstract). One thing to remember is that security and privacy concerns do not need to clash. “The balance between civil liberties and security is not a zero-sum game” (The Heritage Foundation, 2004, p. 7). By restricting surveillance methods to those who espouse anti-American ideologies instead of using mass collection techniques, we can maintain the balance.

Agur, C. (2013). Negotiated order: The fourth amendment, telephone surveillance, and social interactions, 1878-1968. Information & Culture, 48(4), 419-447. Retrieved from February 17, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1492199073?accountid=87314
Cottee, S. (2005). The culture of denial: Islamic terrorism and the delinquent Left. Journal of Human Rights, 4(1), 119–135. doi:10.1080/14754830590947653

Grespin, W. (2014). From the ground up: The importance of preserving SOF capacity building skills. Journal of Strategic Security, 7(2), 37–47. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.5038/1944-0472.7.2.5

Henriksen, T. H. (2007). Security lessons from the Israeli trenches. Policy Review, (141), 17–31. Retrieved February 17, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/216454496?pq-origsite=summon

Hughbank, R. J. (2009). Guerilla warfare & law enforcement: Combating the 21st century terrorist cell within the U.S. Journal of Strategic Security, 2(4), 39–52. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.5038/1944-0472.2.4.4

Hunter, T. B. (2009). Targeted Killing: Self-defense, preemption, and the war on terrorism. Journal of Strategic Security, 2(2), 1–52. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.5038/1944-0472.2.2.1

Levitt, M. (2004). Untangling the terror web: Identifying and counteracting the phenomenon of crossover between terrorist groups. The SAIS Review of International Affairs, 24(1), 33–48. Retrieved January 24, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/231348224?pq-origsite=summon

Roberts, J. Q. (2011). Building a national counterterrorism capability: A Primer for operators and policymakers alike. Connections: The Quarterly Journal, 10(2), 125–138. Retrieved February 17, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/1290416673?pq-origsite=summon

The Heritage Foundation. (2004). The Patriot Act reader: Understanding the law’s role in the  Global War on Terrorism. Retrieved February 14, 2015 from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/09/the-patriot-act-reader

I think targeted killings are a vital part of CT strategy; of course if we can bag a terrorist leader it is better than killing him, but you have to take the shots you're given.

But targeted killings must be directed at targets that will have an impact on terrorist operations.  These should be either leaders or members of the support network.  It does not make sense to spend resources on an easily replaced "line" terrorist.  Targeting leaders is known as decapitation or kingpin tactics.“Kingpin strategies can effectively disrupt and fragment an illicit network, whether it be insurgent or profit-seeking“(Jones, 2013, p.170).  An overlooked strategy would be to assassinate or capture those members of terror networks that provide financial, logistical, propaganda, or recruiting services.

I may have missed something, but my reading of the 2001 AUMF led me to believe that it authorized ops against terrorists involved with the 9/11 attacks.  I still haven't looked at the NDAA material to see if the scope of the domestic legalities has changed.

As far as international law is concerned, terrorists have very few legal rights, as they do not respect the laws and customs of war.  Article 4 of the 3rd Convention is very clear about who is allowed the protection of the laws of war. People that target civilians do not apply. American law may not permit it, but under the Geneva Convention we could torture terrorists to death in broad daylight and it would be kosher.
Thanks for the CFR reference; I haven't done a lot of study on the use of drones yet (institutional prejudice at play), and this looks like a good place to start.

Convention (III) relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War. (1949). International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=2F681B08868538C2C12563CD0051AA8D
Jones, N. (2013). The unintended consequences of kingpin strategies: kidnap rates and the Arellano-Félix Organization. Trends in Organized Crime, 16(2), 156–176. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.1007/s12117-012-9185-x

I don't have a lot of faith in the ability of the UN to do much past bloviating.  I wont go into it, but my base objection is allowing terror supporting and /or tyrannical nations on the Security Council, which kind of defeats the purpose.  There are other criticisms of the UN from both Left and Right.

Wiki is not a valid reference, but here is a link to a Wiki page which outlines some criticism and some effectiveness evaluation of the UN to start searching

Make sure to use the references at the bottom of the page, and check out the "Talk" tab to see argumentation about what is or isn't included on the main page.

"We should not be constrained by Boy Scout ethics in an immoral world." (Kenneth Adelman)

That is a great quote.  It fits squarely with Kaplan's argumentation in
Warrior Politics.

Intelligence, as we all have seen in this course, is the most important facet of counterterror (or almost ALL human endeavor).  O'Connor's point re: identifying the terrorists with the skills fits perfectly with Walt's discussion on targeted killings.

Kaplan, R. (2002) Warrior politics: Why leadership demands a pagan ethos. New York, New York. Vintage Books

I still haven't read enough of the USA PATRIOT Act, criticism of it, and defense of it, to make a judgement on it yet.

I was trying to find a definite answer on whether the NSA surveillance revealed by Snowden was legal or not.  I don't see how it could be, but I haven't been able to parse through the information I've read so far.

Most importantly though, I don't think it's necessary for the general public to lose any amount of liberty to gain security.  We should focus our attention on the people that promote anti-American ideology, not just Islamic but Leftist and racist ideologies as well.  We can analyze their relation networks to determine who they know that we need to know, and who not to bother with.  It is a waste of resources to use the shotgun approach in addition to a violation of American liberty.  Why should folks that hate our way of life get any benefit or protection from it?

I keep going back to this point.  The NSA was keeping tab on American porn habits, while the Tsarnaev brothers (the ones that Russian security told us about) planned their attack.
"The FBI said in a statement: 'The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups"  (The Huffington Post, 2013, para. 4)

Great counter-intelligence technique here:
FBI, "Sir, are you a terrorist?"
Tsarvaev, "No"
FBI, " OK, have a nice day!"
Boston Bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev questioned by FBI In 2011, after suspicions raised about radical Islamism. (2013, April 21). The Huffington Post UK. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/21/boston-bombing-suspect-ta_n_3125896.html

I would contest the judgement that Delta Force erred in Operation Eagle Claw.  My opinion is that the JCS did not plan the op well at all.  There were not enough aircraft for redundancy, intelligence was poor, and using units from all services without training together first was asking for something bad to happen. "The involvement of multiple units - Sea Stallion helicopters, C-130 transport aircraft, Marine Corps pilots, Army Rangers and Delta Force operators ­ and stages in the mission makes it highly complex" (Fong, 2002, para .19)  Bureaucratic politics, in that all the services wanted to be represented, sabotaged the mission.

The good thing is that the services recognized this, and implemented some changes addressing those issues.

Fong, C. (2002). Operation Eagle Claw, 1980: A case study in crisis management and military planning. Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces V28, N2. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from

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