Would the U.S. Benefit from a Unified National Strategy to Combat Violent Salafi Jihadism
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
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Violent Salafi jihadism, or VSJ, motivated the September 11 hijackers, but it is poorly understood by homeland security practitioners and not addressed in U.S. national strategies. This thesis argues that using precise language to define this threat is necessary to achieve a common understanding of the VSJ movement and posits that, based on the resources focused on this threat for the past 14 years, a unified national strategy is warranted. The use of the generic term terrorism has resulted in a vast array of counterterrorism experts, many of whom have little or no understanding of VSJ. An unintended consequence of conflating VSJ with motivation behind other Muslim groups using terrorist tactics is that it feeds the false narrative that VSJ represents Islam. Muslims in Asia and Africa are by far more often victimized by VSJ than is the far enemy in Europe and the United States.This thesis argues that imprecise language referencing the threat from VSJ has led to diluted and sometimes counterproductive, counterterrorism strategies. It also argues that the United States should disaggregate terrorist groups that do not directly threaten the United States and, instead, focus on VSJ with unity of effort across the federal government.