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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report 2 FINDING THE WEAK LINKS (WORKSHOP 1) The workshop on “weak links”, held in Irvine, CA, consisted of unclassified plenary and breakout sessions. The initial presentations provided participants with a context for the discussions about improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by considering past conflicts and their similarities and differences. Speakers addressed lessons and perspectives from conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Colombia, and Europe. During breakout sessions, participants considered basic research questions related to disruption of personnel, resources, and community support of IED organizations. SOME PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ON JIHADIST OPERATIONS IN EUROPE AND IED USE Jeffrey M. Bale (Monterey Institute of International Studies) spoke about four main factors that play a role in IED attacks by jihadist groups in Europe: a group’s operational objectives, ideology, and organization and the effect of environmental and contextual factors on the group. The operational objective of IED use is usually to produce a psychologic impact at low cost. With this in mind, Bale suggested that we ask why some groups do not choose to use IEDs rather than focusing on why groups have embraced the use of that tactic. He attributed the reluctance to embrace IEDs to two factors: a group may be afraid of alienating its supporters by bombing, and a group may already have well-established “signature tactics” that accomplish its goals. For jihadist groups now in Europe, ideology does not proscribe the use of IEDs. Bale cited numerous examples, from interpretations of the Qur’an to exhortations by Ayman al-Zawahiri, of jihadist ideology affirming the use of IEDs. He stated that the most important organizational factor affecting the use of IEDs by European jihadist groups is their connection to more professional, non-European terrorist groups. It is not clear how those groups are connected to al-Qaeda or to groups in Morocco, Algeria, or Kashmir, and the relationships require further careful, empirical study. So-called home-grown groups without the connections abroad can carry out sophisticated attacks, but external support and training probably lead to more effective designs and implementation. Bale noted that Europe “constitutes an almost ideal operating environment within which to plan and carry out IED attacks” because of the abundance of symbolic and tangible targets, such as public transportation systems and well-known monuments and
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report symbolic locations. Western democracies also offer personal and organizational freedom that enables jihadist groups to operate with relative ease. On a practical level, radical groups take advantage of state welfare and judicial systems to spread their message and minimize the chances of effective prosecution. Finally, marginalized communities of Muslims are common on the outskirts of large cities and provide cover for jihadists wishing to “hide in plain sight”. Bale noted that his comments were preliminary. To understand the dynamics of jihadist groups using IEDs in Europe fully, it is necessary to investigate and analyze both successful and unsuccessful (failed or foiled) attacks. Carrying out in-depth case studies could enable researchers to identify trends and elucidate patterns of behavior. Similarly, the existence of marginalized communities of Muslims on the outskirts of large European cities, in addition to being a potential research topic, shows how the environment can affect operational capabilities. During a discussion of the relative merits of qualitative and quantitative data in studying this problem, Bale indicated that his preference is for qualitative, empirical research before quantitative studies. He noted that existing databases are often incomplete and not appropriate for quantitative model-building, but acknowledged that quantitative analysis can help to identify variances in trends and qualitative research can then clarify their origins. One participant suggested that a multimethod approach might best take advantage of the strengths of each type of analysis. IEDS AND THE TROUBLES: LESSONS FROM NORTHERN IRELAND Louise Richardson (Harvard University) presented an overview of the conflict in Northern Ireland. She began by noting three key differences between Northern Ireland and the currently most commonly cited location of IED use, the war in Iraq: the conflict in Northern Ireland is over, it did not involve the United States, and it was resolved successfully. IEDs of various types were used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the period 1968-2005; the greatest amount of activity was in 1972-1976. IEDs were used because they were relatively inexpensive to build, could be detonated remotely, and made a strong visual impression. In addition, by attacking random targets, the IRA had a substantial effect on the psychology of the local Protestant population. The IRA went from local use of common materials in crude explosive devices to use of more sophisticated materials in bombs in England and elsewhere. In addition to changing explosive materials, the IRA also changed its detonation method to stay ahead of the British forces: from direct detonation to remote-control switches and triggers. The IRA also benefited from expanding its international collaborations during the Troubles.1 It had initially focused on the local community and the resources and support available there, but later cultivated relationships with Libya, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Palestinian terrorist groups, and others. In the later stages, the war became more expensive in economic rather than human terms. The incidence of civilian 1 The Troubles refers to the period between the late 1960s and the 1998 Belfast Agreement, and it was characterized by violence between elements of the IRA, Protestant paramilitary groups, British troops, and other parties.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report bombings decreased, the IRA’s popularity waxed and waned with the bombings, and it became more effective for the group to engage in negotiations and discussions than in bombing campaigns. Richardson identified eight major lessons learned during the Northern Ireland conflict: Primacy of politics. About 300 members of the IRA held off 30, 000 of some of the world’s best troops stationed close to home. That was recognized by the British military and government. The IRA would exist as long as the British troops were on the ground as an obvious rallying point and target. Military deployment in civilian areas is difficult to manage. British troops were initially deployed with the understanding that they would be in Northern Ireland for only a few months, but they stayed for 38 years. The troops were initially welcomed in Catholic areas but allied themselves with the local police, who were seen as biased by the community. It took a long time for the local forces to be trained to take over policing from the military, and soldiers on the ground provided a convenient target for the IRA. Initially, it was difficult for the IRA to frame its actions as a resistance to British imperialism, because its main target was working-class Protestants. With British troops in the area, it became easier for it to justify its actions. Bloody Sunday2 is a telling example of the difficulties that military personnel face when operating in a civilian environment. The moderate Catholic community might have accepted the actions taken by the British troops, but local support disappeared when the investigating tribunal found no fault with the actions of the British soldiers. There is no substitute for good intelligence. It is the most important weapon in any campaign against IED organizations. British intelligence and security forces are estimated to have forestalled a great percentage of IED attacks. However, the British military initially made a grave error when it engaged in summary internment of IRA members without good intelligence. By relying on unsubstantiated, anonymous tips, it allowed the IRA to turn the technique against the soldiers by providing false tips, which led to the internment of innocents and undermined public support for the British military. Intelligence plays a key role, but any state must also fight its inherent bureaucracy. Emergency legislation is never temporary. If legislation is too one-sided or too great a deviation from standard practice, it is likely to be counterproductive. Emergency legislation may not be based on sound policy, and such measures may be difficult to remove. Importance of engaging the adversary. The Good Friday agreement was possible only because of earlier meetings—initially disavowed by both sides—between the British government and the IRA. The agreement 2 Bloody Sunday refers to Sunday, January 30, 1972, when members of the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment shot participants of a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march; there were 26 casualties.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report allowed the negotiators to learn about the internal dynamics of the adversary. For example, the British government learned about the importance of prisoners to the IRA, and this helped to fashion the amnesty policy that was crucial to the peace agreement. If a government goes too far, it learns to regret it. The government should not deviate too far from standard practice. For example, enactment of emergency legislation that is potentially driven by emotion rather than sound policy can have unexpected consequences. Simplistic understanding of the problem increases with distance. The further one is from the conflict, either in time or in distance, the more simplistic the view of the problem becomes. At the site of the conflict, all the details, complexity, and facets of the problem are apparent. At a distance, it may be easier to see the “big picture” but lose sight of some of the critical issues in the field. It is important to have a multipronged, integrated, military and political response to the problem. Any part of the government is unlikely to address all the factors that fuel an IED campaign. An integrated approach may be better to address the cultural, social, and political factors and the obvious military concerns. Richardson stated that negotiations between a government and its adversary should initially be presented to decision-makers in pragmatic terms. Intermediaries should be used, and the meetings should be entirely deniable to allow the state to maintain credibility in the community. On the question of why suicide bombing was not used by the IRA, she stated that suicide bombing was incompatible with the community’s standards and thus was not considered an acceptable tactic. Suicide is anathema in the Roman Catholic faith, and suicide bombings would not have been accepted by the local population. However, hunger strikes they have a historical tradition in Catholicism and were used. COUNTER-TERRORISM LESSONS FROM COLOMBIA’S WAR ON DRUGS—COMPETITIVE ADAPTATION: NARCS VS NARCOS Michael Kenney (Pennsylvania State University) described his study of the drug trade in Colombia. This work is part of a larger comparative study of organizations that also applies competitive adaptation to the study of terrorists and counter-terrorists (Kenney 2006). He noted that there is a growing body of literature on the flexibility and adaptability of terrorist and insurgent groups. His research, however, also considers the adaptability of state security agencies. Kenney noted that operational changes made by drug traffickers are generally tactical and are adaptations farming techniques, drug-processing, transport, distribution, and other similar systems. The adjustments are not major changes in the business model but simply improvements to exploit existing capacities. In response, enforcement personnel have adapted by moving from a focus on capturing the buyers of drugs to a focus on catching traffickers by improving intelligence collection and electronic
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report surveillance. Various agencies have seen the value of combining efforts and skills to accomplish their goals. Drug traffickers and antidrug enforcement groups are engaged in competitive adaptation with each other, each trying to gain an advantage. Each side’s structure and goals have inherent advantages. For example, the traffickers have an information advantage in that they know where they are planning to make a delivery and do not need to know the plans of state agencies to complete their task; these organizations have less bureaucracy than state agencies and can distribute information easily. To thwart a delivery or other drug-related activity, state agencies must gather intelligence and break through the secrecy surrounding the traffickers’ organizations. The state has a force advantage in that it has a much larger pool of personnel and financial support than the traffickers. When the state is successful in thwarting the traffickers’ planned activities, it translates its force advantage into an information advantage by gathering intelligence and learning about the traffickers’ current capabilities. Once the state has both a force advantage and an information advantage, the traffickers must adapt to the new situation. That, in turn, forces the state to find new ways to acquire and act on intelligence. Thus, there is a constant process of competitive adaptation. Research on similar organizations and relationships is needed to generalize that model of competitive advantage to endeavors beyond existing case studies. For example, Kenney noted that not all trafficking groups learn, and it is important to identify what leads to one group’s success and another’s failure. He believes that more ethnographic field work with long site visits is required and that there is too great a reliance on information acquired by journalists. Scholars also need to develop robust techniques for combining qualitative and quantitative datasets and develop formal models for these interactions. A consideration in Kenney’s model is the relative competence of the groups. Some cartels are more sophisticated than others, so general conclusions should not be drawn from the actions of a single group. The model must also consider organizational structure and leadership. For example, the compact organizational structures of some drug cartels may allow for more rapid decisions and greater adaptability than the large organizational structures that may be present in counternarcotics organizations. Similarly, if the head of an organization creates an environment in which innovation is discouraged, the adaptive learning system could be disrupted. Researchers studying similar organizations should be aware that a failure to consider a group’s overall competence could introduce bias into their findings. Kenney was asked whether Drug Enforcement Agency controls on precursor chemicals had affected drug traffickers. He thought that any initial disruption was mitigated fairly quickly because of the number of chemicals that are available and can be used in cocaine-processing. One participant noted that achieving Kenney’s goal of increasing the amount of ethnographic field research would encounter reluctance on the part of government bodies and academic researchers. On the government side, the reluctance may stem from an unwillingness to fund research on subjects considered unsafe or considered to pose a security risk. There may be a concern that the research could reveal classified information, and interactions between social researchers and the military may be difficult
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report to negotiate. On the academic side, personal safety is certainly a concern. In addition, family obligations, language barriers, and academe’s tendency not to reward this type of study may affect a researcher’s decision to pursue ethnographic field research. Kenney acknowledged the issue and noted that for the field research to take place, researchers will have to be able to work with the smaller communities in which they would be studying and working. He reiterated that it is important not to rely on journalists, because they are not trained in social research and have different goals from researchers. LESSONS LEARNED FROM AFGHANISTAN Thomas Johnson (Naval Postgraduate School) briefed workshop participants on the current situation in Afghanistan and highlighted some of the Taliban leadership’s methods for making the use of IEDs acceptable to the general population. He emphasized the need for a better general understanding of how history, culture, and community structure affect the willingness of a community to accept a given tactic and how cultural values can be exploited in counterinsurgency operations. Since the beginning of the Iraq war, Taliban fighters have incorporated tactics from Iraq into their own insurgency. However, IEDs, and specifically suicide bombings that account for 10% of IED attacks in Afghanistan, violate the country’s cultural norms. Johnson believes that, because of an inadequate understanding of the culture and of how to interact with the population, counterinsurgency forces have been unable to capitalize on that advantage. Instead, the Taliban leadership has effectively used traditional lines of communication to shift public opinion slowly in its favor. Afghanistan has been through many occupations, and its population is well aware of the efficacy of asymmetric warfare. Suicide bombings, however, present a unique problem in that suicide is anathema to cultural norms and anonymous attacks against civilians are counter to Pashtun honor codes. The Taliban needed to work against those ingrained cultural mores to make suicide bombings acceptable. However, their familiarity with the local culture made it possible for the leaders to create new narratives about suicide bombings by using traditional community-based methods of communication, such as notices posted in public areas and word of mouth. On an individual level, the Taliban appeal to a suicide bomber’s sense of religious duty and dislike of any occupying force; in some cases, the leaders appeal to a person’s desire for a reward in the afterlife. On a group level, the Taliban appeal to the political objectives of a given community, highlighting a need for rebellion and the religious differences between the local population and the occupying forces and intimidating communities with the promise of retribution on their return to power. Counterinsurgency forces are not familiar with the traditional cultural values and interactions within the Pashtun community and thus have not had notable success in countering the Taliban’s message. Attacks on people in villages have offended Pashtun honor, and a lack of understanding of norms of interaction and communication has led to unwitting but important breaches in confidence and trust. For example, an image of a soldier searching a woman was used as propaganda by the Taliban, who described it as showing a violation of cultural values. To create an effective counterinsurgency that operates within existing cultural structures, it is necessary to understand the historical and religious context of Afghan
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report values. Traditional means of oral communication, such as a whisper campaign, could be exploited to bolster the existing aversion to IEDs. We need to study the cultural factors that influence the methods used in an insurgency. One challenge for researchers is to determine the motivations for IED use; another is to develop strategies that can help counterinsurgency forces to adapt to new environments and cultures as quickly as possible. In response to a question, Johnson noted the need for collection of specific data. Although there is an emphasis on collecting statistics, cultural narratives and information about cultural mores are also valuable. However, it is challenging to collect, collate, verify, and distribute such information. The Taliban appear to have had little success in causing damage in their suicide bombings. It was hypothesized that many Pashtun suicide bombers may trigger a detonation early to avoid civilian casualties (Fair 2007); that suggests that the honor code still has some effect even if the initial barrier to the action has been reduced. Another participant noted that the situation is so complex that it is unlikely that any outsider could advance the counterinsurgency message in the Pashtun community. Johnson agreed; he recommends working with Afghans to create a whisper campaign and to operate in the community. Finally, Johnson was asked what lessons could be taken to other conflicts. He answered that a great advantage to the Taliban was the Pashtun perception that expectations of reconstruction and greater security are unmet. That disappointment has provided a seam of discontent for the Taliban to exploit. It will be important in the future to communicate what is achievable and to keep expectations within realistic bounds. INSURGENCY IN IRAQ Brian Shellum (Department of Defense Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) updated the participants on the situation in Iraq. The recent decline in the number of successful IED attacks is attributable in part to improved counterinsurgency forces’ detection capabilities and in part to changes in attitude in the population. Shellum described five groups that have been responsible for using IEDs in Iraq and the relationships between them. By describing the general structure of the organizations, their preferred means of attack, and their supporting pillars, or motivations and goals, he demonstrated risks and tradeoffs that must be taken into account in attempting to manage relationships with these groups to turn them into allies. Shellum noted that a number of basic factors are still poorly understood. For example, two groups may share pillars but choose different tactics; the motivations and reasoning behind the choices are not clear. How different terrorist or insurgent cells work has yet to be adequately modeled. It would be useful to characterize the differences between rural and urban cells and to map ways in which they change, grow, and regenerate.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report BREAKOUT SESSION DISCUSSIONS After the plenary session, workshop participants engaged in a series of breakout-group discussions to identify possible research opportunities. Participants were assigned to groups that mixed government representatives and academic researchers. To the extent possible, each group included a broad array of expertise. Each group was chaired by a member of the organizing committee and lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes, after which participants reconvened to discuss the groups’ findings. The discussion topics were How to disrupt an IED organization’s personnel system. How to disrupt an IED organization’s resources. How to affect popular support and disrupt supportive elements of the environment. The final session of the workshop built on the talks and breakout sessions. Participants were invited to provide feedback on overarching themes and critical research subjects highlighted during the workshop. Workshop participants represented a variety of fields of study, so different views and perspectives were expressed during the breakout discussions and plenary sessions. What follows is a general description of issues, questions, and research subjects highlighted by the reporting members of the breakout groups. How to Disrupt an Improvised Explosive Device Organization’s Personnel System There was considerable discussion of the structure of an IED organization or cell. Some believe that an IED cell is hierarchic, with a leader, middlemen, and people who carried out specialized tasks. Others challenged that view, presenting instead a model of coalescence and fragmentation in which the structure of the IED cell is dynamic. In that model, IED cells are self-organizing systems. A cell will last long enough to carry out an attack or short series of attacks and then fragment. As counterinsurgency forces work against an IED organization, they may remove individuals or groups from a cell; some cells will collapse and others will regenerate. As Shellum had noted, basic questions about the structure and resiliency of these groups remain. The distinctions between the hierarchic and the self-organizing cell models are important. In the former, removing key actors may make the cell ineffective; in the latter, removing a single key actor is unlikely to affect the cell’s effectiveness substantially. The self-organizing model, with some additional assumptions, has been shown to produce casualty distributions that are consistent with observations of a broad variety of insurgencies and terrorist incidents (Johnson 2006, 2008). That suggests that insurgent and terrorist groups operate in the same way, regardless of the origins and locations of the conflicts. The lack of consensus on the best way to model the structure and dynamics of IED cells, and what environmental conditions generate what kind of cell, underscores the need for basic research. Some common themes were apparent during the reporting session. The relationship between the IED organization and the local community is a key factor in determining many of the characteristics of an IED campaign. As highlighted by Johnson
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report and Richardson, community values and attitudes affect an organization’s choices. We need to understand the factors that determine the degree of community support for militants, elements of community environments that are supportive or intolerant of the use of IEDs, and the effects of a community’s response to an attack. Understanding those factors will help us to know whether an organization feels it was successful in achieving its goals. The Taliban’s successful use of traditional forms of communication highlights the effect that communication methods can have on public opinion and recruitment and how communication can play an important role in legitimizing or discrediting the IED organization. Would it be possible to characterize and model the role of community support and environment, the use and impact of the mass media, underlying motivations, network structure, responses to external and internal stress, and the like in these organizations? We need research to determine patterns in organizations’ motivations for choosing specific tactics. Research has not revealed why some groups choose violent tactics and others do not even when underlying motivations appear to be the same. As Bale indicated, the value of comparative studies of both historical and current organizations to answer these questions is clear. This point was emphasized by a number of the breakout groups. Research has not clearly identified the most effective way to target IED organizations; specifically, it is unclear who the weakest and most valuable members of the organizations are, or those who are most easily influenced or subverted. For example, what motivates people to join or leave an organization? As Kenney noted, the leadership and organizational structure of different groups may impact the response of those groups to counter-IED efforts. Research that focuses on the factors that influence individual members of an IED organization, as well as differences between group and individual motivations, could inform the choice of targeting methods. Basic research requires data, and the issue of how to acquire data, such as data on IED organizations and local communities where IEDs are used, provoked much discussion. Opportunities to collect data are always limited, so issues related to methods of collection, collation, and validation must be addressed. In some cases, it is not clear which data are the most useful for studying a given problem. Participants discussed some of the difficulties in using soldiers to collect data. Finally, as with any topic that raises questions about national security, issues of classification of data and the availability of open-source data affect how and whether many of the questions outlined above can be studied. Participants stated many times that public, relevant datasets that allow for the development and testing of models must be developed. How to Disrupt an Improvised Explosive Device Organization’s Resources In this context of an IED organization, the definition of resource is important. Do resources include only physical objects and finances, or do they also include intangibles, such as tacit community support? If the definition is expanded to include the latter, a new method of capability assessment can be developed, resources categorized and sorted into classes (such as tangible and intangible), and new models of resource management and movement developed. A new theory of social resources could be investigated to study
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report and explain how organizations take advantage of, or rely on, social factors to achieve their goals. Chemical tagging of explosives, where possible, could be useful in identifying vulnerable parts of the supply chain. Tags could allow the tracking of movements and routes and the identification of final destinations. Tags could prove valuable in the course of forensic analysis of materials. However, as highlighted in a previous National Research Council report, questions remain about the feasibility of tagging and tracking explosive materials (National Research Council 1998). Tainting of resources could be used to undermine the confidence of members of the IED organizations and act as an indirect disruption of both resources and personnel. Participants also discussed the potential value of regulating or destroying some resources and of tracking essential materials or equipment necessary for the creation of IEDs. IED organizations need money, barter, or trade to operate, and the merits of tracking and tagging funds, either virtually or physically, were discussed. Models of informal and traditional or community-based methods of money transfer could be developed. Separating IED-related fund transfers from legitimate commerce is challenging but important. Finally, it is difficult to monitor and study disruptions of resources, such as materiel and money, objectively. Second-order effects of a disruption are likely, and models that could help to estimate and anticipate those effects would be beneficial. Once a disruption has been achieved, modeling and careful study may be required to obtain an accurate measure of its effectiveness in achieving the counterinsurgency’s goals. How to Affect Popular Support and Disrupt Supportive Elements of the Environment Participants considered many angles of this broad problem. A recurring issue was teasing out which methods of affecting popular support were valid independently of the culture and which were culture-specific. For example, what elements of effective marketing techniques in the United States translate directly to other cultures and countries? Answering that question requires understanding of the role of authority and of the relative importance of personal interaction and communication in different cultures. As Johnson described in his talk, understanding and manipulating traditional methods of communication have been critical tools for the Taliban. Tracking the dissemination of messages introduced through different methods could be useful in assessing the importance to the community of different forms of communication. Better understanding of the relationships could help governments to select the best approach for affecting popular support, such as associating more closely with government or with grassroots groups. Studying those interactions would probably require the development of robust methods to model, evaluate, and interpret data on the effect of communication on public perception. A particular challenge would be to assess the relative effects of passive and active community support and to map related trends and patterns. Such work may require a multimethod approach that uses both qualitative and quantitative data and draws from multiple fields of social-research modeling. Agent-based modeling and game theory are two examples of research areas that could contribute to such multimethod analyses. Once
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report the models have been developed, data from past conflicts could provide rich datasets for testing and validation. Basic questions about the social environments that sustain and support IED activities are still awaiting answers. The factors that influence the stability within communities—the dynamics of stability—are not well understood. There is a substantial literature on civil wars, but further development of models for testing and evaluating social stability in countries, regions, and villages would be valuable in assessing the likelihood of an insurgency. It would help in improving understanding of the factors that encourage or discourage groups that engage in violent activities and groups that remain nonviolent. The work presented by Johnson and Richardson suggested that community expectations may influence its willingness to support an insurgent group. For example, the lack of electricity and other basic necessities in Iraq contravened Iraqi expectations of quick improvements after the 2003 invasion; the discrepancy between expectations and the situation on the ground probably increased support for the insurgency. Similarly, a recent publication (The Quest for Viable Peace: International Intervention and Strategies for Conflict Transformation 2005) argues that augmenting a government’s institutional capacity drives down terrorism and insurgent activities. Investigating methods of managing expectations and of effective dissemination could be helpful in approaching unstable, potentially volatile situations. It may include investigating how different communities respond to internal and external authority. Finally, it could be useful to study the effectiveness of incentive programs in adjusting insurgent behavior or a community’s support of an insurgent group. EMERGING THEMES Five general themes emerged from the breakout-group discussions and the final summary session of the workshop: Data and approaches available for analysis. Contextual factors that influence a group’s behavioral choices. Public support or tolerance. Network and threat dynamics. Actions and behaviors of the “blue” forces.3 Some of the themes were directly related to specific counter-IED efforts, and others were related more to the social factors that influence an insurgency, whether IEDs are used or not. Data and Approaches Available for Analysis Research to answer any of those questions requires data. However, such data may often be difficult for researchers to access, and questions about data quality persist. The difficulty of accessing data is believed to be an “entrance barrier”—researchers could be 3 Counter-IED forces are commonly referred to as blue, civilians as green, and the adversary as red.
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report encouraged to work on these subjects by making data available to test hypotheses and models. Addressing concerns about the availability of data may require creative solutions, such as creating synthetic datasets, using data from other conflicts or contexts, or “scrubbing” data to ensure that they do not reveal specific capabilities or vulnerabilities. Another option might be the development of collaborations between basic researchers and military personnel. Researchers could develop models using publicly available data that could then be tested by those with access to restricted, real-time information. The test results could be sent back to the researchers to assist in further development of the models. Methods that preserve privacy in medical research and census data may be useful models. Similarly, advances in biometrics and fingerprint analysis have been possible because test data (from which identifying information has been removed) have been made available to researchers. For example, law-enforcement agencies have been able to release fingerprints anonymously through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and this database has been made available to researchers and used for competitions to test algorithms. The Department of Defense could use that type of model to make data available and spur interest in research on countering IEDs. With respect to research on the ground, input from journalists may be helpful, but journalists are not social scientists and have different goals. Obtaining reliable data will require social scientists on the ground, and this in turn will require that security be sufficient for research to be conducted safely. Research that identifies methods of gathering reliable information on local cultures that harbor insurgents will be helpful. Modeling and other studies will help to determine the “right” data to obtain on an area. Conversely, in an area where there are active military operations, studies can investigate methods of obtaining relevant data by using existing sources. For example, military personnel may be too preoccupied with critical duties to fill in additional forms to contribute to basic research. It is more useful for researchers to investigate how existing data sources can be used to glean additional information. One limitation of this approach is that such data collection occurs only where military personnel are (such as in Iraq and Afghanistan). Training exercises may be useful sources of data in addition to providing insights into what data are needed and providing potential additional sources. Contextual Factors That Influence a Group’s Behavioral Choices IEDs are relatively inexpensive and easy to manufacture and deploy and have been used effectively in different historical, cultural, and operational contexts to cause casualties. Thus, as noted by Bale, it is more useful to ask why a group that is willing to resort to violence would choose not to use IEDs rather than why some groups do use them. However, underlying both questions is the issue of why a group would resort to violence, whether the means is an IED, assassination, kidnapping, or some other act. It would be useful to know whether there are sociopsychologic discriminators that differentiate between groups that do and do not choose violence. For example, in some cases, such as the lack of suicide bombers in Northern Ireland, the decision may be strongly influenced by cultural and religious norms. Basic research can improve the understanding of the conditions under which violence becomes acceptable to groups, and
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report what differences exist between IED organizations and others. Comparative studies may be useful in answering the question and in identifying ways to influence a group’s actions. One possible source of data for such studies is the rich research literature on civil wars. Another possible subject of research is self-radicalization. Are there indicators of self-radicalization? How does it occur, especially in nonconflict zones? The studies by Silber and Bhatt (2007) and Jennifer Earl are good examples. Public Support or Tolerance Closely linked with the theme of contextual factors that affect behavior is the support or tolerance of the community for insurgent groups and activities. Popular support is a key element in the success or failure of an insurgency or terrorist campaign. Participants discussed many angles to the question. Is there a threshold of popular support that will make violence more likely to succeed? How can popular support be measured? Do different populations and age groups use different information outlets, such as mass media and new media? The study of the factors that influence popular support and tolerance of insurgent activities could lead to a better understanding of how to influence and undermine that support. Network and Threat Dynamics Past conflicts have demonstrated that dynamics and adaptation are critical aspects of an insurgency. Basic research could be helpful in characterizing the network of operations of an insurgent group and identifying the vulnerabilities and dynamics of replacement of the network. For examples, is there a minimal network size for detection or disruption purposes? Another fundamental question is how to model the structure and dynamics of IEDs cells, for example, self-organizing vs. hierarchic models of insurgent behavior. What makes some armed groups more adaptive than others? What are the interactions between insurgent groups? How important are rivalries? How important is cooperation? Statistical analyses of adaptive processes to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures could be useful. Studies in contexts other than armed insurgencies, such as drug smuggling and gangs, may provide useful testbeds and data. A key component of studying network adaptation is the adaptation not just of the adversary but of blue forces (for example, the counterinsurgency forces in the case of an insurgency and the “narcs” in the case of drug smuggling) and green forces (the local population). Actions and Behaviors of the Blue Forces A number of kinds of study can improve the effectiveness of blue forces in their counterinsurgency efforts. For example, it would be helpful if the plans for an IED-based insurgency could be assessed before initiation of counterinsurgency operations. One question is whether there is a way to measure the likelihood of insurgency, and studies of civil wars might provide insight. An area’s stability could be worth monitoring, but first
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Disrupting Improvised Explosive Device Terror Campaigns: Basic Research Opportunities, A Workshop Report the factors that affect stability, their applicability among cultures, and their sensitivity to military intervention must be identified. The presence of military forces in a community probably influences it. What are the best means for military forces to negotiate and collaborate with people in the environment, including nongovernment organizations, the local population, and others? How can the viability of a host nation’s government be assessed? There are also practical concerns for blue forces. The development of technologies that could facilitate research and sharing of best practices engagement of blue forces in the human terrain could help to smooth the interactions between them and the local community. It could also improve the tactics used by blue forces in their direct counter-IED and counterinsurgency efforts.