Phases of violent extremism: targeting the evolution of Al-Shabaab
Jordan, Richard S.
Venter, Nathaniel B. Van De
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The events of September 11, 2001, and the reactions that followed sparked a surge in international terrorist organizations, resulting in increased threat to U.S. national security. Although military operations have had some short-term successes against violent, extremist organizations (VEOs), they are an insufficient long-term counter-extremism strategy. It is apparent that a new approach and new way of analysis are necessary. We examine the problem by focusing on Al-Shabaab, a VEO in Somalia, with attention to its stages of development. Using unclassified sources, we apply three theoretical frameworks to determine whether deterrence might be effective as a countervailing strategy at each stage. For Phase One, beginning before the organization’s establishment, we look at historical and cultural context. Phase Two analyzes formation and growth from the perspective of social-movement theory, and Phase Three employs a structural perspective, using organizational-design theory, to the VEO in its mature form. Conclusions are drawn, based on deterrence theory, for each stage in the VEO’s evolution. This research provides a foundation by which policy and strategy makers may gain insight into the seams, gaps, strengths, and weakness of VEOs as they change over time, and where deterrent strategies may be applied to advantage.
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