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Special issue on occasion of NATO Advanced Research Workshop "The Perseverance of Terrorism: Focus on Leadrs"
A Note from the Editors
Making a Case for Going to Court: Militant Islamism in Denmark
This article argues that there is potential in adopting a strategy of targeting such individuals for legal prosecution but not necessarily under terrorism legislation. It argues that an approach relying on pretextual prosecutions could be effective and possibly have fewer counterproductive side effects than prosecutions under terrorism legislation. This is done by first drawing a picture of the militant Islamist environment in Denmark and secondly suggesting a path for implementing such a strategy, introducing the challenges and potential pitfalls associated with it.
Terrorism: A Need for Complex Response
The threat of transnational terrorism became more evident than any kind of domestic threats. Western leaders have clearly understood the asymmetric nature of terrorism and the urgency to react. Moreover, the fight against terrorism has gained an international hallmark, and the post-Cold War non-interventionism of the 1990s has ceased to exist. This text will attempt to shed light on how the international terrorist should be tackled and where the international effort, resources and emphasis on counter-terrorism should be put.
Targeting Terrorist Leaders: Limits and Opportunities
Leadership decapitation is a part of the counter-terrorism strategy which can be successful if undertaken under certain conditions. On the one side decapitation tactic required very specific amount of resources instead invest in others counter-terrorism measures. But on the other side it can bring “boomerang effect” while the aim of reduce capabilities of the terrorist group can be achieve also by different methods, like pitting one group faction against other. Despite arguments for and against targeted killing, it should be taken as one of a broader set of counter-terrorist measures and should include local authorities. Despite all the most effective strategy combating terrorism seems to be prevent it on different stages before it turn into real threat for the state security.
Combating Terrorism: European and Croatian Perspective
The effective combating of contemporary terrorism requires a great deal of international cooperation and the employment of various methods and strategies. The European Union is pushing forward for a comprehensive, harmonised joint European policy on counter-terrorist measures. Croatia plays and will continue to play a small, yet important role, because it is the only NATO member that has had recent experience with a defensive war. Also, it is a gateway country that can serve as a bridge between the West and the East and thus help battle terrorism by providing expertise and understanding of the Islamic culture with which it has close contact through Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Targeting Leaders: No Easy Short-cuts
There is no consent in the literature as to whether targeting leaders is effective, although all researchers agree that in no way it is a magic bullet that would solve the problem of terrorism. It could be effective as an operational component within a broader counter-terrorism strategy rather than as a single instrument. It is also indispensable to bear in mind the normative and moral contexts. Using a combination of measures and strengthening the law enforcement elements of counter-strategies are therefore recommended.
Terrorist Leadership—to Kill or Not to Kill
It seems that we are never in a position to be absolutely sure that a terrorist entity truly deserves to be ignored without paying a high price if our assessment ultimately proves to be wrong. By ignoring the problem we are providing prospective terrorists with time to grow and develop deadlier skills—this is probably the worst option and is not worth trying. We should study each event of political extremism patiently and stubbornly and try to prevent the moment it crosses the line between legitimate political activism, however unpleasant it may seem, to illegitimate violence.
Smart Counter-terrorism: Incorporating the N-order Effects and Adopting a Human Security Perspective
This paper argues that counter-terrorism communities need to incorporate the second and third order effects of their pre-emptive actions into their planned actions, and adopt a broader human security approach which will bring long-term sustainable security. Democratic states should be more careful with their policy of offensive counter-terrorism (especially targeted killings) in order to prevent further boomerang effects, resurrection of the eliminated terrorist nodes, and damage to democratic values.
Investigating the Calculated Elimination of Removable Enemies: The Puzzle of Terrorism Decapitation Research
To claim that calculated actors (i.e., the counter-terrorist decision-makers), interested as they are in securing the indirect goal of political stability, will kill (or capture) terrorist leaders when they are in a position to do so, and with good results in terms of terrorist group mortality, may be a double tautology. This is presented as the puzzle of terrorism decapitation research: the paradox of doubts about the utility of something that may be seen as guaranteed to work.
Focus on Leaders? Insights from the Algerian Experience
The Algerian experience shows that fighting terrorism and extremism requires a plurality of instruments rather than a simple focus on a single instrument, as this kind of threat is intrinsically multifaceted and multidimensional. In this wider framework, focusing on leaders is only one aspect among many others, although symbolically it may bear rather strong importance in the process of defeating the enemy.
Engaging Leaders of Non-state Armed Groups: Evidence from Northeastern Afghanistan
Leaders still play a decisive role in non-state armed groups. They are, however, not omnipotent as patron-client systems consist of reciprocal relations. Leaders have to constantly ensure the loyalty of their followers by distributing resources and acting in their favour, as frequent splits of non-state armed groups and infighting over command and control shows. Finally, the formation and existence of non-state armed groups is unthinkable without the interests of groups who are excluded from government power and wider social grievances. Therefore, leaders of non-state armed groups should be engaged to influence the behaviour of their followers, but the social context should not be disregarded.
Leaders Make History, but They Do Not Make It as They Please
The leaders of terrorist organisations should not be completely ignored, but engaging them has to be part of a larger comprehensive strategy. The essence of this strategy should focus on the reduction of the organisations’ capabilities to inflict damage, limit the appeal of violent means in its constituency and the denial of recruitment to it. The latter can well be the consequence of the former two, though that is not always the case.
Preserving the Pied Piper: The Importance of Leadership in Deradicalisation
This article argues that while proponents of decapitation and targeted killings of terrorist leaders advance logically sound arguments, empirical studies have often shown that these arguments do not take hold in reality. The article then draws on the Egyptian experience with the deradicalisation of Islamist militant groups to claim that capturing rather than eliminating certain types of leaders can have a substantial impact on efforts to reform weakly committed foot-soldiers of terrorist organisations and non-violent sympathisers, which should be at the heart of all long-term counter-terrorism strategies.
Teun Van Dongen
Terrorist Leadership Elimination: When to Do It?
It is true that there have been attempts to find explanations for the effectiveness of leadership eliminations, but those have been largely focused on easily observable and only indirectly relevant factors such as ideology and the age of terrorist groups. Organisational structure has been considered as well, but with little success. In a modest attempt to make up for this gap, the remainder of this article outlines two fairly intuitive policy recommendations regarding terrorist leadership elimination. They are intended to help policy makers decide when—and when not—to try this strategy.
Targeting Leaders as a Strategy for Countering Terrorism: The Egyptian Case
Egypt’s experience in countering terrorism, examined in this article, reveals that countering terrorism requires complex strategies, relying not only on targeting leaders. Besides, the efforts of America during the Bush administration, in cooperation with several countries in the Middle East, did not lead to the end of terrorism, but instead new patterns of terrorism were created and overlapped with organised crime, making it more complex.
The Approaches of State Security and Defence Institutions to Terrorist Network Leaders in the 21st Century Security Environment
This paper will analyse possible options for a state to engage the leadership of terrorist, insurgent and organised crime networks, and possible legal, military and political consequences of such engagement. However, the main argument of this paper is that every single case of engagement of such leadership is unique and requires highly individually tailored approaches by state institutions.
Gender-based Efforts to Counter Female Suicide Terrorism
The purpose of this analysis is to provide an exploratory view of terrorist attacks by females in order to identify repeatability in which countries, the types of weapons used and the nature of the target and number of casualties, and whether a group or individual was responsible.
Ryszarda Formuszewicz, Dorota Liszczyk
The Staffing Policy of the European External Action Service—Stocktaking Ahead of the 2013 Review
The aim of this article is to give an overview of the European External Action Service (EEAS) staffing policy to date as a result of the interaction between its regulations, recruitment practices, the service’s hybrid structure and its expectations towards its performance/deliverables.
© Copyright by Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych, Warszawa 2013
Editor-in-chief: Marcin Zaborowski
Managing editor: Kacper Rękawek
Copy editors: Brien Barnett, Anthony Casey
Proof-reading: Katarzyna Staniewska
Cover design: Malwina Kühn
Typeset: Dorota Dołęgowska
Richard English—Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews
Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen—research fellow at the Danish Institute for International Studies
Samuel Arbe—research fellow at the Slovak Foreign Policy Association
Wojciech Grabowski—assistant professor at the Political Science Institute at Gdansk University
Iva Kornfein—research assistant at the Institute for International Relations, Zagreb
Karolina Libront—PhD candidate at the University of Warsaw, Institute of International Relations
Ryszard Machnikowski—associate professor at the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the University of Lodz
Iztok Prezelj—research fellow and assistant professor of Security and Defence Studies at the
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Peter Marton—lecturer at Corvinus University in Budapest
Dario Cristiani—Tubitak Visiting Research Fellow at Fatih University in Istanbul; reads his PhD in International Politics of the Mediterranean at King’s College in London
Philipp Munch—PhD student at the University of Munster
Asta Maskaliunaite—lecturer in War and Conflict Studies at the Baltic Defence College, Tartu
Ahmed El-Buckley—diplomat with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Teun van Dongen—strategic analyst and PhD researcher at Hague Centre for Strategic Studies
Eman Ragab—researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies
Raimonds Rublovskis—lecturer in Riga Stradins University and Research Fellow of the Latvian
Institute of International Affairs
Roxana Apalaghie—research manager at the Middle East Political and Economic Institute in Bucharest
Dorota Liszczyk—analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs
Ryszarda Formuszewicz—analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs
Publisher: Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych (The Polish Institute of International Affairs)
ul. Warecka 1a, 00-950 Warszawa; tel. +48 22 556 80 00; fax +48 22 556 80 99; e-mail: email@example.com
The views expressed in The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs are solely those of the authors.
The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs is regularly presented in the catalogue of International Current Awareness Services, in Ulrich’s International Periodical Directory, and in International Political Science Abstracts/Documentation Politique Internationale. Selected articles are included in the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences.
Virtualo Sp. z o.o.
This Special Issue of The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs includes contributions from future speakers and participants of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) “The Perseverance of Terrorism: Focus on Leaders.” The workshop will be held 24-26 April 2013 in Belgrade, Serbia. PISM analyst Kacper Rękawek serves as co-director of the ARW along with Marko Milosevic of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP).
The objectives of the ARW are as follows: 1. to assess the longevity and perseverance of the terrorist threat to both NATO members and NATO partner countries; 2. to establish the extent to which a terrorist threat is dependent on the leadership of a terrorist group, organisation or network; 3. to disseminate knowledge and exchange information about the recent state of scholarship and expertise related to countering terrorism; 4. to establish long-lasting links and networks amongst workshop participants; 5. to strengthen the links between academia and the think tank community; 6. to provide participants with a platform of contact with the world’s most established terrorism experts; 7. to critically assess the existing knowledge related to countering terrorism and to identify gaps; 8. to identify challenges to policy-oriented research on leadership of terrorist groups, organisations and networks in the post-bin Laden age; 9. to offer a structured set of solutions to counter-terrorism practitioners on how to approach the issue of leadership in terrorist groups, organisations and networks, and how to address this issue in the most efficient manner; 10. to produce guidelines and ideas for future research avenues in the field of terrorism studies. More information on the ARW, including the information sheet and speaker’s bios, is available at: www.pism.pl/Research/Projects/PISM-is-administering-a-NATO-grant-from-the-science-for-peace-and-security-programme-sps.
It is arguable that terrorism research has been transformed even more than terrorism itself during the years since the atrocity of 9/11. This excellent collection of papers reflects on some of the more exciting trends that have developed, interrogates some of the more angular problems that persist, and draws deeply on case-study expertise in order to move numerous debates on terrorism and counter-terrorism very helpfully forward.
The subjects covered here are not all ones that will appeal to the squeamish. Does “decapitation” of terrorist leaderships work? If so, why, and under what circumstances, and at what cost? Is the integration of terrorists into state networks and structures justified and effective as a counter-terrorist tactic? How far should we concentrate on terrorist leaders anyway? The case studies range from Egypt to Algeria to Spain to France to Denmark. Such impressive balance helps avoid some of the problems that have hindered terrorism research in recent years, such as an overemphasis on Al Qaeda (there are probably now more people studying Al Qaeda than are actually in it), or the lack of scrutiny of those policies which have in practice worked rather well against non-state terrorist groups.
Historically, terrorism has changed world politics much more powerfully through the provocation of large-scale state reactions than it has through its own (admittedly pernicious and blood-spattered) directly violent effects. Both the 20th and 21st centuries began with incidents of terrorist violence, state reactions to which transformed politics and international relations. This was clearly far more deleterious in the case of the First World War than that of the War on Terror, but the broad and unavoidable point remains: it is state responses to terrorist atrocities that provide the most important variable in this antiphonal relationship as it changes world history in various ways.
And the connection between terrorists and counter-terrorists is indeed relational, mutually shaping, and even intimate. All scholars of terrorism who have worked close-up to their subjects and who have also dealt with counter-terrorist actors recognise the mutual yet hostile understanding that can develop between terrorists and counter-terrorists during periods of cat-and-mouse conflict. The challenge for scholars is to try to draw out from such attritional patterns of engagement historical lessons that will allow us to fast-forward towards effective policies and towards limiting human damage; this will avoid our stumbling bloodily towards answers for which we already had the information to grasp amid the emergent crises themselves.
These impressive papers, authored by participants of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop (NATO, ARW 9884495: “The Perseverance of Terrorism: Focus on Leaders”) and gathered together here by the co-director of the Workshop, the managing editor of The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs and a pioneering young Polish scholar, Dr. Kacper Rękawek, make a significant and valuable contribution to that process of understanding.
Militant Islamism in Denmark is, like in most Western countries, a fluid and unorganised phenomenon that is not easily defined or delimited. There are no organisations, spokespersons or declared leaders and no membership. The phenomenon can best be described as an environment from which smaller groups that have engaged in terrorism or terrorism-related activities have emerged but to which different individuals are attracted for different reasons.1 Adopting a strategy of targeting leaders in one way or another in order to prevent or counter-terrorism emanating from the environment would therefore prove difficult.
There are, however, individuals in the environment who have indispensable talents or resources and who therefore play key roles when terrorism occurs. Such individuals may be in contact with more organised peers in conflict areas and therefore be able to facilitate engagement in combat or training, or they may have access to and experience with weapons, be skilled at fundraising or are charismatic and particularly good at propagandising and disseminating justifications for using violence.
This article argues that there is potential in adopting a strategy of targeting such individuals for legal prosecution but not necessarily under terrorism legislation. It argues that an approach relying on pretextual prosecutions could be effective and possibly have fewer counterproductive side effects than prosecutions under terrorism legislation. This is done by first drawing a picture of the militant Islamist environment in Denmark and secondly suggesting a path for implementing such a strategy, introducing the challenges and potential pitfalls associated with it. To introduce the Danish situation, a list of plots that have led to convictions under Danish legislation is initially provided with indications of how they were discovered.2
In October 2005, several individuals were arrested in the Greater Copenhagen area. In Denmark, the case was labelled the Glostrup case, but elsewhere it is referred to as the Sarajevo case, because the Danish arrests followed arrests made in Sarajevo. There, a Swedish citizen, a Turkish citizen with residence in Denmark and two Bosnian citizens were arrested on suspicion of planning terrorism. Three of them were later convicted of planning terrorism, while the fourth was convicted of illegal trade in arms. The two men from Denmark and Sweden had been in contact with various individuals in Denmark, and of those arrested in Denmark in October 2005, four were subsequently charged with planning terrorism against unspecified targets. In February 2007, one of them, Abdul Basit Abu-Lifa, was found guilty.
In September 2005, Said Mansour, who had attracted the authorities’ attention since the 1990s because of his international contacts and his publishing house, Al-Nur Islamic Information,3 was arrested. Among other things, Mansour was linked to the Glostrup case, and this connection played a significant role in both cases. In April 2007, he was convicted of encouraging others to commit terrorism.
In September 2006, several individuals were arrested in Odense, in what became known as the Vollsmose case. The authorities had received information from an informant turned agent that a group was preparing an attack and had manufactured the explosive TATP. In November 2007, Abdallah Andersen, Ahmed Khaldahi and Mohammed Zaher were found guilty of attempted terrorism against unspecified targets.
In September 2007, several individuals were arrested in the Greater Copenhagen area. In Denmark, the case became known as the Glasvej case but elsewhere it is referred to as Operation Dagger. Danish authorities were warned by foreign authorities when Hammad Khurshid returned from Pakistan after receiving training in spring 2007. Khurshid was put under surveillance and was among other things filmed while manufacturing the explosive TATP. In October 2008, Hammad Khurshid and Abdulghani Tokhi were found guilty of attempted terrorism against unspecified targets. During the trial it emerged that the accused had been in contact with several of the individuals involved in the Glostrup case.4
On 1 January 2010, Muhudiin Mohamed Geele was arrested after breaking into the home of Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish cartoonists involved in the cartoon crisis, armed with an axe and a knife. In February 2011, he was convicted of attempted terrorism.
In September 2010, Lors Magomedovitch Doukaev, a Belgian citizen, was arrested after accidentally detonating a parcel containing TATP in a hotel in Copenhagen. In May 2011, he was convicted of attempted terrorism against the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten.
In December 2010, a group of Swedes were arrested in Denmark and Sweden on suspicion of planning an attack on the building housing the newspapers Jyllandsposten and Politiken. In Sweden, the men had been under surveillance for some time because several of them had previously been under suspicion of planning terrorism. When three of them travelled to Denmark carrying weapons and ammunition, arrests were made in both countries in a concerted effort. In June 2012, Sahbi Zalouti, Munir Awad, Omar Aboelazm and Mounir Dhahri were convicted of attempted terrorism.
In all the plots, the individuals involved had ties to broader constituent environments and, as indicated, several of the Danish cases were directly linked to each other. In the following section a picture of the Danish environment is drawn for the purpose of informing the subsequent discussion of the potential, the challenges and the pitfalls of a strategy relying on pretextual prosecutions of key actors who facilitate terrorism.
The Militant Islamist Environment in Denmark
The militant Islamist environment in Denmark in many ways resembles other counter-cultural environments.5 Very different individuals who are searching for different rewards, using the environment for different purposes and engaging in different activities inhabit it. Some engage in terrorism or terrorism-related activities, some in other illegal activities and some engage only in social activities or simply hang around. A shared worldview, a shared culture and very strong social bonds tie the environment together.
The perception that Muslims are the victims of injustices and oppression in a global as well as a Danish context constitutes the backbone in the worldview of the environment. Wars and violent conflicts across the world are linked with conflicts and challenges in Denmark, to paint an overall picture of a general adversarial relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, where Muslims are seen to be superior to others but currently victimised.
This is construed as the result of a world order currently dominated by capitalism, multiculturalism and man-made rules and systems, such as democracy, where decadence and double standards are seen to prevail. The critique is also aimed at what is seen as amoral behaviour, including sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, the dissolution of traditional family structures and a culture of hedonism. As an alternative to this, the Islamic state—or the Caliphate—is seen as the ultimate just and good society.6
In order words, what spurs the environment is a harsh critique of the existing world order and a wish for revolutionary changes.
In addition to seeing the World Establishment as an enemy, the environment defines both non-Muslims and Muslims who do not reject multiculturalism and democracy as adversaries. Generally the world is divided into us versus them, something that is strongly emphasised in speeches and written publications. But in other contexts than the carefully prepared speeches and written materials, the worldview is more varied. Opinions differ, for example, when it comes to defining long-term goals and how to attain them. In practice, the ideologies as well as the enemy images are constantly subject to debate and therefore anything but static. Both are constantly being discussed and developed, just as they may undergo changes in connection with concrete events.7
In addition to these simple and easily understandable narratives, the environment offers very strong social bonds. The inhabitants of the environment have their own rules and rituals as well as a distinct language, manners and dress codes, making it possible for them to recognise each other and distance themselves from the surrounding society and simultaneously strengthen their sense of belonging. The inhabitants will go to great lengths for each other. They share virtually everything and exhibit a great deal of affection by collecting money or clothing, providing housing, transportation and care, giving each other massages, preparing meals for each other and offering emotional support in difficult times.
In the environment, daring to speak up against those in power and paying a price for doing so is a source of credibility and authority. Individuals and groups who have put something on the line are seen as having proven their worth, and as a consequence such individuals and groups are attributed credibility—whatever they say or do will as a point of departure be regarded as worth listening to. The more they are against the authorities, the more they have put on the line and the more they have been punished, the more credible and worthy they are.
This way of attributing credibility and authority means that individuals who take action and as a consequence find themselves in conflict with the authorities are automatically attributed credibility and status. If not because others admire what they do then at least because they admire that they do it.8
Being part of the environment also grants the inhabitants access to an identity as one of the chosen few who understand the state of affairs and what needs to be done. This self-image originates from a narrative about the End of Days in which an area called Khorasan is to be the scene of a battle symbolising the beginning of the end. In this area, a small group of men with long hair and long beards, wearing white clothes and carrying banners with the Islamic creed will defeat an overwhelming foreign occupation. This area covers what is today known as Afghanistan, and in the environment the Taliban’s resistance to the presence of NATO and ISAF troops is perceived to be part of this symbolic battle. In the narrative, the battle will be a sign that the final clash between good and evil has begun and that all human beings will have to take sides. Part of the narrative is that only a small minority will understand this and join the battle by engaging in violent activities and that these are the chosen few who are not only destined for greatness and ensured a place in Paradise but also endowed with the ability to see everything else clearly, too.9 Becoming part of the environment is in itself seen as proof of being among the chosen few and is consequently a great source of self-confidence.
This makes for an environment that is attractive to different individuals for different reasons and it is not only individuals looking to join the cause and engage in violent acts but also individuals looking for strong social bonds, a sense of belonging, thrills or an attractive identity who find their way into the environment. In the words of Brynjar Lia, “In some countries in Europe, it has become ‘cool’ to be a jihadi,”10 and in Denmark this certainly appears to be the case.
In order to become part of the environment, adopting violence-promoting rhetoric is a requirement. But doing this does not necessarily lead to actual engagement in terrorism or terrorism-related activities, and even those who are ready to engage in such activities will not necessarily be able to do so.
For someone to become a threat to security he or she must possess the will, the ability and the opportunity to act. Someone who has the will but lacks the ability does not pose a threat, neither does someone who has the ability but no opportunities.
The inhabitants of the environment do not necessarily have all these resources when they engage in the environment, but through the environment they can come into contact with individuals who are able to provide the pieces they are missing. Such missing pieces could be an opportunity, such as access to a target, the ability, in the shape of training, weapons or other resources, or the will, nourished through justifications and incitement. The individuals who are able to provide these missing pieces can be termed facilitators since they are the ones who facilitate terrorism or terrorism-related activities. Such individuals are not necessarily leaders in a narrow sense and they are not necessarily directly involved in terrorist activities or the planning of such but they possess resources that others are in need of in order to engage and they are therefore necessary for a threat to emanate.
In a Danish context, several terrorism cases have emanated from the same environment11 and certain individuals have been recurring cases. These individuals have not been prosecuted or convicted under Danish terrorism legislation, but through the trials it has become clear that they have played facilitating roles and that the Danish authorities are aware of this.12
Minimising the Risk of Threats Emanating from the Environment
Directing attention to the individuals who play facilitating roles by attempting to hamper their activities and thereby interrupt the supply of resources necessary for individuals to move from thought to action could potentially be an effective strategy. One reason why Danish authorities have previously not done this may be that it has not been possible to produce sufficient evidence of involvement in activities that are illegal under Danish terrorism legislation. If this is the case, an alternative might be to attempt to prosecute such individuals under other types of legislation.
Others have suggested similar ideas although not specifically focusing on facilitators. As John Rollins notes in a report for the U.S. Congress:
“Some observers see the nexus between crime and terrorism as a potential boon for detection and law enforcement prosecution. Even if prosecutors do not have sufficient evidence to convict a suspected terrorist of terrorism-related charges, other criminal charges may stick. Furthermore, some criminal charges, such as violations related to drug trafficking, can have jail sentences and penalties similar in magnitude to terrorism ones. Observers describe such law enforcement approaches to counter-terrorism as pretextual prosecutions or an Al Capone-style strategy because it evokes similarities to the approach used to combat U.S. mob activities in the mid-twentieth century… While the U.S. government was unable to charge Al Capone with murder and other organized crime-related charges, authorities were able to convict him of tax evasion.”13
Rollins, however, cautions that such an approach has its challenges. First of all, it will be “difficult to track the number of terrorism-related convictions unless the convictions are directly for terrorism.”14 As a consequence it will be difficult to measure the effectiveness of such an approach.
Rollins further cautions that “[c]ritics also suggest that pretextual prosecutions pose ethical and social dilemmas, arguing that not charging criminals with their primary alleged crime reduces law enforcement transparency and political accountability and credibility of justice sector activity.”15 The approach may, in other words, challenge the public’s sense of justice and perception of law enforcement.
Rollins therefore suggests policymakers further evaluate the potential costs and benefits of pretextual prosecutions, including the ethical and political implications before adopting such a strategy.
When it comes to militant Islamism in Denmark, a strategy of targeting facilitators under other types of legislation than terrorism legislation appears to hold some potential benefits that may outweigh these challenges.
Because of the way credibility and authority is attributed in the militant Islamist environment, trials under terrorism legislation may unintentionally contribute to the defendants’ credibility and authority in the eyes of their peers and the courtrooms may also become arenas where inhabitants of the environment can strengthen and solidify their sense of group identity.
This to some extent was the case when Said Mansour was put on trial under Danish terrorism legislation. In 2007, he was sentenced to three and a half years for inciting to terrorism, and during his trial he was able to use the courtroom as a stage on which he could solidify his fame in the environment by challenging Danish authorities and displaying disrespect for the court. One of his more spectacular performances was when he appeared in court for his verdict wearing an orange t-shirt with the text “Guantanamo.”16 In other Danish terrorism cases, similar performances have unfolded in court when defendants have demonstratively refused to rise for the judges and the jury, addressed spectators and the press verbally or with body language, or attracted peers for group hugs and speeches following verdicts. Peers also engage in various activities including refusing to rise for the judges and the jury but rising for the defendants, cheering, commenting, laughing, singing, etc.17
The courtrooms may also be turned into arenas where individuals wishing to engage with the environment can make initial contact, which can otherwise be difficult because of the clandestine nature of the environment.18
Finally, individuals convicted under terrorism legislation attract a great deal of attention from their peers and are central to the environment’s resentment against authorities. The inhabitants of the environment put a lot of energy into discussing the injustices against them, which terrorism trials are seen as, and into attempting to support the defendants and their families. Defendants therefore also serve the purpose of further tying together the environment because they represent a shared cause and yet another shared injustice.19
As a consequence, trials under terrorism legislation can have counterproductive side effects. Trials under other legislation should therefore not only be seen as a last resort when it is not possible to go to trial under terrorism legislation but also as an alternative that may in the long run have fewer costs. Such an approach, however, entirely depends on the relevant individuals actually engaging in criminal activity. This is certainly not always the case but some do engage in ordinary crime, for example, to raise funds or to acquire weapons or other resources for terrorism, whereas others engage or have in the past engaged in criminal activities unrelated to their involvement in the environment.
In most of the cases that have led to convictions in Denmark, this has been the case. Said Mansour, who in 2007 was convicted of encouraging others to commit terrorism, had previously been convicted of forgery and possession of illegal arms and stolen goods. He was sentenced to three months imprisonment in 2004.
Two of the defendants in the Glostrup case pleaded guilty to theft, possession of stolen goods and incitement to violence. One was sentenced to four months imprisonment and the other received a suspended sentence.
During the trial of Hammad Khurshid, who was convicted of attempted terrorism in 2008, he explained how he had made contacts in Denmark that could provide him with stolen goods such as night vision binoculars which his contacts in Pakistan had asked him to acquire.
Lors Magomedovitch Doukaev, who was convicted of attempted terrorism in 2011, was convicted in absentia of attempted murder, possession of illegal arms and death threats in Belgium.
The four Swedes who were convicted of attempted terrorism in 2012 had also previously been in trouble with the law. Mounir Dhahri was convicted of drug trade, violence, threats and wife battering in Sweden. Omar Aboelazm was convicted of violence, threats, sexual assault and harassment and sentenced to psychiatric treatment in Sweden. Munir Awad was arrested in Kenya in 2007 and in Pakistan in 2009 on suspicion of terrorism. He was returned to Sweden on both occasions. Sahbi Zalouti was arrested in Pakistan in 2009 because he was there illegally. He too was returned to Sweden.20
As these examples indicate, short sentences do not necessarily have an effect. For an approach relying on pretextual prosecutions of facilitators to be effective it will in all likelihood be crucial that sentences are of some longer length so the facilitators’ bonds with the environment are severed. Considering that there is rather rapid turnover in the environment21 the collective memory is not necessarily very long and individuals who have not already made a name for themselves will likely be forgotten relatively quickly.
It is also crucial to ensure that the facilitators are not able to continue their activities while serving time in prison. This would require they be isolated from peers as well as from potential new proteges during imprisonment, meaning that they neither be placed in prisons or departments reserved for individuals convicted under terrorism legislation nor in prisons or departments where vulnerable or impressionable prisoners are placed. Such vulnerable or impressionable prisoners could include individuals convicted of gang-related crimes, drug-related crimes, violent crimes or ordinary property crimes. As an alternative they could be placed among resourceful prisoners convicted of white-collar crimes who are unlikely to be attracted to the environment.
Such a solution would require cooperation with the national prison and probation service as well as the individual prisons. In all likelihood this will represent a challenge since prison and probation services as well as prisons often already struggle to accommodate various needs and requirements.
As is often the case, the feasibility of the approach depends on commitment, consistency and the necessary resources being allocated.
The global security environment is rapidly changing. Besides traditional actors in international relations, there is an ever-increasing number of new players. These new players force old actors to adjust their perceptions and redesign strategies and policies. The current environment is unprecedentedly affected by the events of 9/11. The scale, nature and, to some extent, simplicity of those events symbolise a turning point in the global approach towards terrorism. The Western world, led by the only superpower, the U.S., launched a “war on terror.” The terrorist attacks in the U.S.–together with those in Spain and the United Kingdom—have set a new global agenda. The extraordinary aggression was carried out by a limited number of attackers while causing tremendous harm to these global powers. The threat of transnational terrorism became more evident than any kind of domestic threats. Western leaders have clearly understood the asymmetric nature of terrorism and the urgency to react. Moreover, the fight against terrorism has gained an international hallmark, and the post-Cold War non-interventionism of the 1990s has ceased to exist.
This text will attempt to shed light on how the international terrorist should be tackled and where the international effort, resources and emphasis on counter-terrorism should be put.
Elusive Foe or Delusive Strategy?
There is an ongoing debate about how to define terrorism. The internationalisation of terrorism does not make it any easier. The following lines will use the broader definition of terrorism as “unconventional violence against non-combatant targets.”22 Due to nature of transnational terrorism, it is hard to hit or harm international terrorist organisations effectively. Moreover, recent experience shows that the international community (mostly actions taken by Western governments) is impotent to cause serious damage to such organisations and even impossible to truly decapitate them. Killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 was rather a symbolic moment than a genuine success in countering terrorism.
Therefore, this article will argue that counter-terrorism activities should not focus preponderantly on leaders of terrorist groups or networks. Countries involved in the struggle with terrorism would be ill-advised either to focus only on terrorist leaders or to neglect other elements of counter-terrorism. The dilemma about where the international community should put the most emphasis exposes a number of additional questions. Some of the dilemmas are mentioned below. Whatever the debate, such discussion should remain at the centre of international interest. There are no clear answers, but challenging current and tested policies or strategies might bring possible solutions in the future.
One question is whether the term “war on terror” is an appropriate label for the counter-terrorism efforts of the West. Does the West act like it is in a war or is this term used only as a metaphor? Hence, unlike conventional warfare, we cannot use the principle of deterrence, call for a ceasefire, or negotiate peace in a “war” against terrorism.
Is this fight aimed at countries or against international networks or organisations? Seemingly we cannot label one country or another as a terrorist country. We can only assume that in weak or failed states that terrorism enjoys more freedom to operate, even though this hypothesis might be false. However, the West is not fighting the states themselves. In weak or failed states, the state apparatus is dysfunctional or absent, consequently there is no one to fight.23
Hence, the causes of terrorism must be analysed. Are these causes only material, or are they also political, psychological, religious or cultural? Does the West stimulate them somehow? If we talk about anti-West terrorism, do we see more general hatred or issue-related actions? Answers to these questions might help to formulate complex counter-terrorist policies in the West.
The international community is still finding the connections among and balancing the allocation of resources for countering three types of terrorism: (1) that which threatens exclusively the West, (2) that which hurts the West and/or other regions as well, or (3) that which does not impact the West, but threatens other regions.24
Targeting only the leaders of terrorist groups would be a naive and very simplistic strategy. Terrorist organisations, with their ability to metamorphose and survive in stark environments, are hard to hit. The example of Osama bin Laden shows that it is no easy task to ensnare a leader. In this case, it took the Americans more than a decade to get to their most wanted fugitive. It is complicated to pinpoint the exact location of leaders and it is even harder to conduct an attack without causing collateral damage when a leader is found in an urban or densely inhabited area.
Such leaders represent only the tip of the iceberg. For Al Qaeda, its leaders are only the most visible, mostly heard (not easy to track) part of the greater entity hidden below the surface. Bin Laden was easily replaced by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over the leadership. It is too difficult and too soon to estimate how the death of bin Laden affected the whole Al Qaeda network. Such organisations as Al Qaeda have an international structure and can recruit new members who are educated, radicalised and devoted to Al Qaeda’s mission. Killing their leader might even cause deeper devotion to their mission, calls for revenge or may not necessarily cause harm to the rest of the structure if it is still able to operate in its usual way.
There is an ongoing debate about how to look at terrorism. Is it an act of war or a form of organised crime? When seen as war, the military reaction is adequate. If we treat it as organised crime, law enforcement should come to the forefront as a possible solution. Reality shows that terrorism is both war and crime. Therefore, targeting a leader is an accurate goal of counter-terrorism. However it must be part and parcel of a broader strategy that includes fighting on multiple “fronts.” Trying to decapitate a structure organised in small cells and distributed networks might not bring the desired effect. Asymmetry and idiosyncrasy is also crucial in this aspect. Today’s terrorism does not have the old symmetric features states used to encounter before, such as being predictable, rigid, hierarchic or static. Terrorists today are unpredictable, networked, self-organised, independent, evolving, developing and adapting. Therefore, a sole focus on leaders in this case would be a delusive strategy in fighting an elusive foe.
What to Do Instead and What Works Best?