News Updates

The ‘Wanted Dead’ Option in the War on Terror
BAGHDAD — You can hardly blame Iraq’s beleaguered prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, for trumpeting the killing of the two leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq last month as a lethal blow to the local terrorist franchise. “Decapitation,” as it is called, has long been seen as the silver bullet of counterterrorism. Military commanders and especially political leaders rarely resist the temptation to embrace the strategy — think, “Osama bin Laden, Dead or Alive” — as the short road to the end of a war on terror. (New York Times, May 2, 2010)

Books, Reports and Websites

USIP Special Report: When Should We Talk to Terrorists?
From the publisher: This report explains the conditions under which governments might promisingly negotiate with terrorist groups so as to end their violence.  It is drawn from a larger United States Institute of Peace-supported multiyear research project on how terrorist campaigns meet their demise.  Based on qualitative and quantitative research that explores the lessons of negotiations with terrorist groups and analyzes other potential pathways for a group’s decline, including decapitation, repression, reorientation, and implosion, the conclusions herein offer general guidance to policymakers who must decide whether to enter talks with a given terrorist group.  The report applies those lessons specifically to the current debate over negotiating with “al-Qaeda” and “the Taliban.” By Audrey Kurth Cronin. (USIP, May 2010)

Walking Away from Terrorism
From the publisher: “Walking Away from Terrorism: Accounts of Disengagement from Radical and Extremist Movements,” by John Horgan is an accessible new book that looks at how and why individuals leave terrorist movements, and considers the lessons and implications that emerge from this process. Focusing on the tipping points for disengagement from groups such as Al Qaeda, the IRA and the UVF, this volume is informed by the dramatic and sometimes extraordinary accounts that the terrorists themselves offered to the author about why they left terrorism behind. (Routledge, 2009)

How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida
From the publisher: How do terrorist groups end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process. This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa’ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering rather than a “war on terrorism” approach that relies heavily on military force. By Seth G. Jones and Martin C. Libicki. (RAND, 2008)

USIP Special Report: How Terrorism Ends
From the publisher: In an attempt to better understand what governmental actions can hasten the end of political violence, on April 12, 1999, the United States Institute of Peace, together with the British-based Airey Neave Trust, convened a working group meeting on the subject “How Terrorism Ends.” The workshop began with an overview of the problem by Martha Crenshaw. Her presentation was followed by three case studies. In the first, Paul Wilkinson of St. Andrews University discussed the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and in the second, Jon B. Alterman of the United States Institute of Peace discussed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Both were considered “successful” case studies, because the organizations in question have embraced political dialogue instead of violence to pursue their aims. In the third case study, Teresita Schaffer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies discussed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for autonomy for Tamil-populated areas in Sri Lanka for almost two decades. The LTTE was considered a “failed” case because government actions have been unable to end the violence. By Jon B. Alterman (USIP, 1999)

When Heads Roll: Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Decapitation
From the author: Leadership targeting has become a key feature of current counterterrorism policies. Both academics and policy makers have argued that the removal of leaders is an effective strategy in combating terrorism. However, leadership decapitation is not always successful, and existing empirical work is insufficient to account for this variability. As a result, this project answers three primary questions: (1) Under what conditions does leadership decapitation result in the dissolution of a terrorist organization?; (2) Does leadership decapitation increase the likelihood of organizational collapse beyond the baseline rate of collapse for groups over time?; and (3) In cases where decapitation does not result in group collapse, to what extent does it result in organizational degradation and hinder a group’s ability to carry about terrorist attacks? I develop a dataset of 298 incidents of leadership targeting from 1945-2004 in order to determine whether and when decapitation is effective. By Jenna Jordan. (Security Studies, 2009)

Combating Terrorism Center, West Point
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point contributes relevant scholarly perspectives through education, research and policy analysis to combat terrorist threats to the United States. We maintain expertise in four primary areas: terrorism, counterterrorism, homeland security, and weapons of mass destruction. By developing a curriculum of the highest quality, producing theoretically informed studies, and crafting relevant policy recommendations, we remain an internationally recognized center of excellence dedicated to the advancement of terrorism knowledge and expertise.

Leaving Terrorism Behind: Individual and Collective Disengagement 
From the Publisher: This new edited volume expands our understanding of the processes by which individuals and groups disengage from terrorism. While there has been a growing awareness of the need to understand and prevent processes of radicalization into terrorism, disengagement and deradicalization from terrorism have long been neglected areas in research on terrorism. This book uses empirical data to explore how and why individuals and groups disengage from terrorism, and what can be done to facilitate it. The work also presents a series of case studies of disengagement programmes, from Colombia, northern Europe, Italy, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, comparing and assessing their various strengths and weaknesses. In light of the lessons learned from these cases, this book describes and explains the potential for new developments in counter-terrorism. This book will be of great interest to all students of terrorism studies, war and conflict studies, international security and politics in general, as well as professionals in the field of counter-terrorism. (Routledge, January 2009)