On 11-12 October 2010, COE-DAT in Ankara conducted a NATO Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) entitled “Trends and Developments in Contemporary Terrorism 2010.” The aim of the ARW was to take stock of the developments across the spectrum of terrorist activity, both actual and potential, and look at how current policy and practice in Defense against Terrorism could be adjusted or improved to meet and defeat these changes. This paper summarizes the content of the various lectures and the conclusions drawn by those lecturers. The full workshop papers will be published in book format in first part of 2012.
The workshop was attended by 31 participants (18 from NATO, 7 from PfP and 6 from MD countries), 18 experts on terrorism; the keynote speaker was Prof. Dr. Yonah Alexander.
The ARW itself broke the subject into 5 panels:
1. Terrorism as an entity in 2010,
2. Current terrorist threats,
3. Countering terrorist threat,
4. Emerging trends in terrorism, and
5. Communication strategy-winning the minds,
and 17 subject areas that looked at relevant areas of ‘New Terrorism’ and the response to this threat, in order to raise discussion/debate among the selected audience. Each speaker was allotted 30 minutes to introduce his or her subject with 30 minutes at the end of each session for question and answers.
The panels were built on a central theme assessing the threats posed by the New Terrorism, the means to respond to these threats at the international, regional and national level, as well as the way forward.
Significant reactions and comments based directly on the concrete experience of those parts of the world enabled the creation of an environment of dialogue and mutual confidence. In this respect, the Center sought to reach a common understanding of the future threats posed by terrorist organizations in the 21st Century, and to determine common themes that may guide future policy developments in respect to the subject.
In the 21st Century, understanding the changes in the nature of terrorism and the response to the terrorist acts is crucial. Terrorism continues to increase in diversity in terms of geography, demographics, and methods: terrorists act can occur now in almost every country, involve a widening range of ethnic communities, and employ an expanded arsenal of weapons. The redefinition of terrorism at the local, national and international levels has made data collection and tracking of the trends of this phenomenon more difficult. Contributing to this situation are disagreements over ‘who’ we engage against and what rules apply in this increasingly violent conflict.
Suicide bombing has become a much more common tactic of terrorists from many groups. Also, terrorism is increasingly carried out by women.
Terrorism today is almost completely transnational. In the past, terrorist attacks were planned and carried out within one state; today, acts are more likely to have international planning, performance elements, and victims. Globalization and the increased capabilities in mass transit and communications make this linkage formidable.
Terrorist groups today are more loosely structured. The cell structure of terrorists is much more difficult to infiltrate than those of earlier decades. The all-channel network structures of terrorist cells make bribes, sting operations, and the capture of one of the members to gain entry to the group is much less effective than similar counterterrorist actions against the earlier chained networks.
Twenty-first Century terrorists are, as a whole, much better trained and equipped than those of earlier decades. They have not only organized camps but also training manuals and a growing arsenal of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, the bombs and other explosives are still popular, as the growth of use of IEDs makes clear.
Terrorists today are more adept at using the Internet and other forms of modern mass media communication, reaching worldwide audiences and targeting different types of audiences effectively with their messages. The Internet ‘showcases’ terrorists' work very effectively, as hostage videos from Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated. Terrorist are no longer dependant on getting local newspapers to carry their messages. These new skills are also highlighting the increased vulnerability of computer networks to cyber attacks, making the critical infrastructure of many nations of risk from cyber terror.
Terrorists today can sponsor states, rather than being dependent upon a state of sponsorship, whereas terrorist groups of the late Twentieth Century had sponsor states. Modern terrorist have resources that make such sponsorship unnecessary. This means that the limits on state actions and the vulnerability of state actors to reprisals or punishment for open sponsorship can no longer be assumed to limit the actions of terrorist groups. Failed or failing states can give terrorists a safe haven without ties or responsibilities for adherence to international law, as the increasing piracy around the coast of Somalia makes clear.
These few attributes of the terrorism emerging in this new millennium do not offer a complete, or even a final picture of terrorism. That is why, in order to cope effectively with modern terrorism, law enforcement and security agencies not only have to be aware of these changes but also have to develop counterterror means and methods to cope effectively. Counterterror policy makers have to not only ‘catch up’ on with the terrorists but they also have to learn faster than terrorist.
Hopefully this book will contribute to that effort.
Dan-Radu VOICA, Col