Strategies for countering terrorist safe havens
Nielsen, Kenneth E.
Thomson, Robert L.
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More than a decade after the attacks on 9/11, United States leadership continues to place a high priority on pursuing terrorists and denying them safe havens from which they can recruit, train, and plan operations. In a time of decreasing budgets and growing sentiment avidly against involvement in prolonged wars, the U.S. must adapt strategies to meet the future threats posed by terrorist safe havens. This thesis offers strategies for countering safe havens. It begins by arguing that safe havens are not just geographic areas, but that they also include a demographic component that allows terrorists a population among which to hide. The thesis then presents four strategies aimed at denying geographic and demographic safe havens: leadership targeting within safe havens, tactical containment, pseudo operations, and surrogate security forces. The thesis draws from four historical case studies to examine these strategies, including the Peruvian governments efforts to combat the Shining Path, French containment of the Casbah in Algerias war of independence, Rhodesias Selous Scouts experience with pseudo operations, and U.S. co-option of the Sons of Iraq in Anbar Province. The thesis finds that no single strategy is sufficient for dealing with geographic and demographic safe havens. Rather, a combination of strategies, properly sequenced, can reduce terrorist safe havens. Furthermore, none of these strategies works without counterinsurgency forces positively engaging the population, setting the necessary conditions for separating insurgents from their demographic and geographic supports.
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.Replaced new revision 02/24/2014
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