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Does Our Counter-Terrorism Strategy Match the Threat?

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This report presents testimony by Dr. Bruce Hoffman, The RAND Corporation, before the Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, United States House of Representatives, on September 29, 2005. Section 1, The Al Qaeda Movement Today Adaptive, Resilient, and Still Formidable, examines the four distinct, but not mutually exclusive dimensions of Al Qaeda Al Qaeda Central, Al Qaeda Affiliates and Associates, Al Qaeda Locals, and the Al Qaeda Network. Section 2, The Ongoing Insurgency in Iraq and the GWOT, focuses on the attitudes of the Al Qaeda terrorists toward the conflict in Iraq, which they view as a useful side-show -- an effective means to preoccupy American military forces and distract U.S. attention while Al Qaeda and its confederates make new inroads and strike elsewhere. The conflict also provides bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri with the time they need to cover their trail, and it helps to reinvigorate the jihadist cause. The consequences of the conflict will likely be felt for years to come as the surviving jihadists who fought in Iraq use their experience in urban warfare to attack urban centers in Europe and elsewhere. The final section of the report, Realigning American Counterterrorism Strategy with the Threat, maintains that the United States cannot rest on the past laurels of success during the opening phases of the GWOT, but will need instead to adjust and adapt its strategy, resources, and tactics to formidably evolutionary opponents that, as we have seen, are widely dispersed and decentralized and whose many destructive parts are autonomous, mobile, and themselves highly adaptive. Given the trends and developments in Al Qaeda that the author has summarized, what can the United States do against this highly dynamic threat The report concludes with eight broad policy options that seem to be most relevant to combating this threat.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Unconventional Warfare

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