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Eureka: A fireside chat on terrorism Eureka: A fireside chat on terrorism
by Akli Hadid
2018-04-24 08:46:23
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If you have a television and watch the news occasionally you will probably hear of bombings in Iraq or Afghanistan, suicide bombings, mass shootings, hostage taking, assassinations or all kinds of horror killings, including knife attacks or car rammings or truck rammings on civilians.

terrrrrrrrr01Then you'll hear people say “if he's white he should also be called a terrorist” or “terrorism isn't just Islamic terrorism.” There is no convential definition or terrorism, but it is usually understood as organizations claiming several members who engage in unconventional attacks on civilians or armed forces. Some governments sponsor terrorism, while other organizations are quasi-governmental, while others are affiliated to legal or illegal organizations seeking political power, while others are affiliated to organizations seeking revenge or intimidation for what are considered hostitile acts on their organization, base or country.

So let me try to give a clear definition of what terrorist organizations can be:

-Government terrorist organizations: that is organizations who are affiliated to a government or to a political party who has representation in a government, and whose armed branch engages in hostile and murderous acts against civilians or the military in their own country, or in foreign countries. Example: a government might have an armed branch or an army that no only conducts defense exercises but also committs attacks on its soil or in foreign soil. 

-Quasi-government terrorist organizations: they are not the armed branch of a government or of a political party that has representation in a government, but have close ties to the government or political parties affiliated to the government and have the blessings of the government or political parties affiliated to the government when conducting hostile and murderous acts against civilians or the military in their country or in a foreign country. A government might agree to use the services of an armed group which operates autonomously to carry out attacks on its soil or in foreign soil. For example, the cronies of an olligarchy can have terrorist organizations.

-Political terrorist organizations: they are the armed branch of a political party that does not have government representation but that is seeking government representation or to take control of the government and engage in hostile and murderous acts against their country or in foreign countries. A political party might have an armed group or band that carries out attacks on its soil or on foreign soil.

-Organized criminal terrorist organizations: they are not political-minded but business minded. The armed branch of a legal or illegal business organization who engage in hostile or murderous acts against civilians or the military in their domestic country or in a foreign country, often to protect their business interests and against those who threaten their business interests. A legal or illegal business group might have an armed organization that carries out attacks on its soil or on foreign soil. 

-and finally: religious terrorist organization; they are the armed branch of a religious, faith-based, spiritual-based or common interest based organization that might or might not seek political benefits but seeks new members to their religious organization by committing hostile or murderous acts against civilians or the military in their country or in a foreign country. They might do so in seeking new members or in disputes with rival religious organizations, or might carry out hostile acts to attack values that they believe are contrary to the beliefs of their religious or interest-based organization. A religious group or an interest-based organization, small or large, organized or unorganized, might have an armed branch that carries out attacks on its soil or on foreign soil.  

In the rest of this fireside chat, we will look closer at how terrorist organizations form and operate.

How terrorist groups form

Let's look at all five types of organizations that might have terrorist branches and how they form them.

The government: This is an obvious one. They might use people from its own army or hire people from outside the army, train them, and send them to conduct terrorist operations on its soil or on foreign soil. These are hard to detect because it's difficult to know the difference between a legitimate army soldier and one that carries out terrorist attacks.

Quasi-governmental organizations: The president, a prime minister or a national assembly or a group of olligarchs or any other government organization might hire people to conduct terrorist attacks, either on a temporary basis or on a permanent basis. As with the government, they could take people from their own army or hire people from outside the army to conduct terrorist attacks. In both government and quasi-government cases, because terrorist groups were under the order of a government, they are very hard to identify or stop.

Political terrorist organizations: a political party can form, and can be validated or illegitimate. In both cases, both valid and illegal political parties can hire and train armed groups to carry out terrorist attacks, such as the murder of political oponents or figures, or larger scale attacks, either to seek legitimate power, to secede from the country, or to gain political power and lead the government.

Business-based terrorist organizations: you can have legitimate businesses or illegitimate businesses such as drug or prostitution cartels who can hire and train armed groups or terrorists and engage in acts either of revenge (such as when one business member is arrested, a law is passed and is unfavorable to the business, or the government or a group cracks down on the business, or simply to eliminate business competitors.)

Religious-based terrorist organizations: Some religions are hjghly organized (the Catholics, many Christian Churches, Judaism) others work in fashion similar to cartels (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism) with no clear director or structure to the organization, others take more anarchic forms (small independent Christian churches, sects etc.) and can hire armed groups to defend their interests, proselityze, convert people, engage in revenge against governments or organizations who oppose them or arrest their members, or engage in competition with competiting religious groups. Some interest groups and associations can also hire armed groups to defend their interest, could be art-based groups, sports fan clubs, artist fan clubs, or any other interest group you could possibly imagine.

How terrorist groups organize

There is almost always a reason behind the formation of a terrorist group. People rarely group in the name of terrorism itself. It is usually a political cause, a business cause or an interest-based or spiritual cause.

Terrorist groups will usually have contacts with the organization they represent, and in some cases represent several organizations. That is you could have, for example, Hamas directly hire and train terrorists, or you could have Hamas outsouce its terrorism, that is call independent groups who organize and train with the purpose of serving any organization that will want to recruit them.

Terrorist organizations usually have three types of operatives:

-Intelligence officers: they are the ones who gather information on their targets, or information in general. They spy on rival organizations, sometimes negotiate with rival organizations, and seek to identify hostile action before it happens. They also try to find out what the government, foreign governments and other organizations are planning, and if such organizations are planning to take any action against them or have any information on them.

-The Jackals: they are the ones who carry out the violent action. They are the suicide bombers, the murderers, those who take armed action against civilians or rival organizations. Jackals are trained to be fit, to be discreet and not to be visible, as well as to carry out their terrorist attack efficiently, and how to behave if they are arrested. Training depends on the organization, some organizations don't train their Jackals. With the internet, some Jackals are hired online directly, in other cases terrorist organizations call on jackals to carry out attacks wherever they are, any type of attack they can.

-The army: some terrorist organizations have an army, that is a group of people, either hierarchical or egalitarian, to carry out larger scale attacks, plan attacks, gather intelligence and commit armed attacks.

Lone wolfs and GTA attacks

Some lone wolf or GTA attacks are direct responses to online propaganda calling for attacks, others are directed by terrorist organizations who meet their jackals online or offline, others respond to no particular call to carry out a terrorist attack by do so of their own will. Motives are sometimes unclear, sometimes the jackals want fame, sometimes the jackals want destruction, some attacks are copycat attacks.

Recruiting centers

How do terrorist organizations recruit terrorists? Here are some of the ways they go about recruiting terrorists:

-they have intelligence services who identify potential recruits for intelligence, jackals and the army. People who like to engage in risky behavior, people who live in overcrowded houses, people with high levels of debt, people who show excessive greed and like to make a quick buck, people who suffer from domestic abuse, people who were victims of injustice, people who take risks with illegal trade (drug dealing, prostitution rings) or people who are fascinated or obsessed with political or military affairs, or who like to pick up a good fight or people who plainly want to join the terrorist organization.

-Sometimes the terrorist organizations are known, famous and respected even by family members, others are not. Intelligence services take the family aspects into account.

-Some terrorists are hired for one operation while others are hired on a more long-term basis.

-Sometimes members are hired by screen organizations such as legitimate businesses who turn out being training bases for terrorists. Some schools, stores, bakeries, butchers hire people they then convince to join terrorist organizations.

-Some are more open about recruitment others are more secretive. Some take slow approaches to convince others to join while others take quick approaches. Some train terrorists while others don't.

Terrorism in failed states

Terrorism is not something particular to failed states, but in failed states security services tend to be non-existant, allowing terrorist organizations to take over security affairs. That is terrorists will conduct terrorist attacks, but will also play the role of the police, the military and the judge. That is, they can intervene in theft, domestic affairs, divorces or any other case that should technically be taken care of by legal organizations.

In some states legal organizations exist but are weak, in other countries they exist in name only. This is why the government, political parties, business organizations and religious organizations will need armed groups to defend them.

Where do they get their money from?

-Political terrorist organizations: from political party membership fees, business and personal donations, sometimes international donations including from international businesses, governments and associations. Some donations are meant to the government or political parties then are embezzled toward the armed group, while other donations are made knowingly to armed groups.

-Business terrorist organizations: profits made from the legal or illegal business are then funelled to the armed branch of the organization. In some cases, legal businesses can engage in illegal activities to fund their armed groups. Some legal business organizations that are big but have made severe losses compensate their losses by engaging in illegal business activities to cover their losses.

-Religious and interest-based organizations: through donations, membership fees and in some cases international donations, including grants, business donations and foreign government donations. In some failed states, religious-based organizations are encouraged to form armed groups to fight the local government or to act as a type of police or legal organization in the area where there are no other security forces.

Counter-terrorism intelligence: what you need to know

In some cases, governments disguise their terrorist organizations and demand intelligence only to pass the intelligence on to terrorist organizations. In other cases, governments, businesses and religious organiations act as double agents: promising protection in exchange for intelligence, only to pass the intelligence on to terrorist groups.

Conclusion: The vicious cycle of terrorism and how to break it

Terrorism leads to injustice leads to more terrorism which leads to more injustice. That is, terrorist groups commit acts of terrorism, then people who had nothing to do with terrorism suffer from injustice and repercussions, such as losing their jobs, in some cases losing their house. Consequences can also be indirect, such as the economy suffering because of terrorism.

Why do organizations arm themselves with terrorists in the first place? Often either in order to survive or because they could not otherwise win the battle. Often governments, government organizations, political parties, businesses or religious organizations lose money either because of lack of donations, failing sales or because the economic situation does not enable them to get the grants they need. This is when they call on armed groups to protect their illicit businesses or simply to terrorize people into donating money. Terrorist organizations then also need public relations, and can carry out attacks to put their name out there and get more recruits, more donations, more fear, in some cases more respect, in other cases rival organizations giving in.

Terrorism is also often due to a lack of education and intellectualism, that is organizations who can't think of another way to make money than by perpetrating attacks. This is where they need legitimate free-market business and democratic governance education. So when Algeria says it has a policy of “deradicalization” I hope it means teaching people to make money through legitimate market economy means and by participating in a democratic process where everyone's voices can be heard. 


       
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