"A Comprehensive & Inclusive Strategic Review Needed" by LTG James Dubik (ret.)
A Comprehensive & Inclusive Strategic Review Needed
The President-elect will conduct a complete strategic review of the global war against terrorism; I’m sure it has already begun. But will this review be comprehensive and inclusive enough? A comprehensive review will produce a complete and coherent understanding of the war we are fighting; an inclusive one will involve our allies and Coalition partners. Such an assessment, I believe, will find that we are not fighting two wars—one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan—but that we are fighting one war with two active theaters and multiple less active but still important theaters.
Our enemies are a complicated mix. We are fighting a global network of extremists, sometimes led by al Qaeda and other times fought by local groups who are only affiliated with or motivated by the al Qaeda ideology, or one like it. Actions of affiliates are sometimes aligned with al Qaeda and some-times not, depending upon the expediency of interest. Al Qaeda is not a nation-state, but it has declared war and acted as if it were one. Some of its affiliates are waging fairly classic insurgencies where they live—sometimes with training, funding or leadership help from the “home office,” sometimes with little or no support. We are also fighting some terrorist organizations not related to al Qaeda at all but sponsored by nation-states surreptitiously through a variety of means. The fight also includes criminal organizations sometimes seeking legitimacy via the language of jihad or insurgency, sometimes not.
Almost any intelligence analyst, whether independent or part of a national organization, will map out a network of the connections among this complicated variety of hybrid terrorist organizations: in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, central and south Asia, Southeast Asia, and North and South America. Power, control, religion, greed, crime, anger, revenge, despair, lack of opportunity—all are part of the stew that is often heated by depressing local economic or oppressive political conditions. Other times the fire is fanned by trained foreigners motivated by a broader, global ideology. More often, it’s a combination of elements.
Motivations among the groups may be a fog, but their threat and their connectivity are quite clear. Analysts will report that some of these groups were spawned from legitimate complaints against their governments or from appalling economic conditions and opportunities. Others are hard-core “true believers” for whom jihad is a way of life—and death. The criminal groups are motivated in yet another way; for them, it’s “just business.” Each type of group, and often each group within types, must be understood for itself and as part of the larger network. Such an understanding is complicated but necessary work. Fortunately this work is mostly carried out within the set of government and independent intelligence organizations that are watching these groups.
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