Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Strategy Against Al-Qaeda Faulted: Rand Corp. Report Says Effort Is Not a 'War'

The Bush administration's terrorism-fighting strategy has not significantly undermined al-Qaeda's capabilities, according to a major new study that argues the struggle against terrorism is better waged by law enforcement agencies than by armies. The study by the nonpartisan Rand Corp. also contends that the administration committed a fundamental error in portraying the conflict with al-Qaeda as a "war on terrorism." The phrase falsely suggests that there can be a battlefield solution to terrorism, and symbolically conveys warrior status on terrorists, it said....


The study was based in part on an analysis of more than 600 terrorist movements tracked over decades by Rand and the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. Jones and Libicki sought to determine why such movements ultimately die out, and how lessons from recent history can be applied to the current struggle against al-Qaeda.

The researchers found that more than 40 percent of terrorist movements fade away when their political objectives are met -- but that this outcome occurs only when groups are secular and have narrow goals....A roughly equal number of terrorist groups die when their key leaders are arrested or killed. In the vast majority of instances, this is accomplished by local law enforcement, the study notes. "In most cases, military force isn't the best instrument," said Jones, a terrorism expert and the report's lead author....


The authors call for a strategy that includes a greater reliance on law enforcement and intelligence agencies in disrupting the group's networks and in arresting its leaders. They say that when military forces are needed, the emphasis should be on local troops, which understand the terrain and culture and tend to have greater legitimacy. In Muslim countries in particular, there should be a "light U.S. military footprint or none at all," the report contends....

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