Tag Archives: Tamil Tigers

Britain’s Defence Industry: Decisive Dealers in Death

As Osborne plans to impose £11 billion of welfare cuts or tax rises, the arms industry in Britain in contrast is an ever increasing chief expenditure. In 2011, after the US Britain was found to be ‘the world’s biggest defence exporter’, and shamelessly remains the fourth-biggest military spender in the world. By shamelessly I mean proud, exemplified by Cameron last December as he admired the ‘outstanding performance‘ of the Typhoon fighter jet in Libya.

From an impartial British citizen’s perspective it is tempting to believe Cameron when he says:

Boosting exports is vital for economic growth, and that’s why I’m doing all I can to promote British business … so [it] can thrive in the global race. Every country in the world has a right to self-defence, and I’m determined to put Britain’s first-class defence industry at the forefront of this market, supporting 300,000 jobs across the country.

In actuality, the defence industry makes up a mere 1% of the workforce. More importantly, what does increasing your own nation’s GDP mean when it comes at such a barbaric cost elsewhere?

Within just four months in 2009, as the Sri Lankan civil war between the government and the Tamil Tiger’s culminated, up to an alleged  75,000 people were killed. A recent Independent article reveals how during a similar amount of time, over a mere three month period last year, the UK sold nearly £4 million worth of weapons to Sri Lanka – regardless of numerous reported human rights abuses.

The following article is about the recently revealed execution of the 12 year old son of the military leader of the Tamil Tigers, shot dead by the Sri Lankan army. If you can’t relate to the 75,000, perhaps you can relate to a young individual in order to realise that it is time to regulate the arms trade. It is time to stop profiting from deaths.

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An Introduction To Terrorist Organisational Structures

An introduction to conventional hierarchy, cells, networks and leaderless resistance.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is generally considered that there are four forms of structure employed by terrorist groups: conventional hierarchy, cellular, network & leaderless resistance. The decision to employ one of these formats is grounded in the security/efficiency trade-off of each; conventional hierarchy providing the most efficient and least secure, leaderless resistance the opposite: highest security, least efficiency. It is worth stating in advance that certain terrorist groups prohibit us from placing them into just one category; the term ‘fuzzy boundaries’ is used to describe those organisations that transgress the stated demarcations. For example, Hezbollah utilize a conventional hierarchy in Lebanon whilst maintaining networks in the West. It is the purpose of this piece to briefly explain these structures and provide some examples of how they have been implemented by various groups (N.B. the security/efficiency numerals presented after each variant are purely indicative).

Conventional Hierarchy (Security: 1, Efficiency: 4)

Audrey Cronin has argued that all terrorist groups would, in an ideal world, utilize the conventional hierarchical structure, thus attempting to cross the border into full-blown insurgency. Such a structure equates to the mimicking of the hierarchy employed by modern-day military forces: the pyramid shape is populated at the bottom by footsoldiers (privates), managed by their officer (corporals) and so on until the top of the pyramid and the high command (generals).

Employing such a structure provides an organisation with the greatest efficiency (this format aids the specialization of units in, for example, intelligence, recruitment, finance and support), ease of information transfer, and allows it to enforce a coherent long-term strategy. With regard to ideology-based organisations, it aids ideological unity among its members – an important issue given the need to maintain such unity within these groups. The weaknesses of this structure have been ably discussed by Beam (an American white nationalist), albeit with reference to the subversion of the American State. Beam argues that such a system is extremely dangerous when utilized against a state, especially in this era of electronic surveillance: should the state infiltrate or otherwise compromise the organisation at the higher echelons of command, the whole entity is compromised. Similarly, should the high command be killed or captured, there is a very real possibility of the group disintegrating. Thus, a more subversive organisational construct is of greater use for a terrorist group that seeks to remain in existence in the face of the “War on Terror”. The early Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) provide good examples of the use of this structure.

Cellular (Security: 2, Efficiency: 3)

The cell structure incorporates a network within a hierarchy. Each cell (generally comprising three to ten individuals) possesses one member (‘X’) – usually the leader – who maintains contact with the organisation’s high command. Often only one element of the command will have contact with X, and X will generally have no knowledge of other cells, or other members of the high command. Should X be compromised, the information that she is able to provide is distinctly limited: whilst her cell will likely be rendered inoperable, she is unable to provide details of other cells, nor is she able to provide details of the high command other than the commander that she has dealt with. Similarly, if a member of X’s cell is compromised, the only information they can provide is that of their cell and X.

Whilst the high command is removed from contact with their footsoldiers, this structure suffers from the same problem with that of the conventional hierarchy: should the high command be compromised the entire organisation could topple. Beam writes that “the efficient and effective operation of a cell system … [is] dependent upon central direction, which means impressive organization, funding from the top, and outside support”. The central command must maintain their hold on each individual cell in order to maintain strategic unity and thus remove the possibility that cells will act alone, thus potentially damaging the organisation as a whole (for example, say that a renegade AQ cell was responsible for 9/11. The United States would likely still have responded with an attack against the entire AQ infrastructure, even if the attack had not been initiated by the high command).

Network (Security: 3, Efficiency: 2)

An organisational network structure comprises numerous nodes/cells connected/interconnected in differing ways. Variations of such a network, each with different levels of security & efficiency, can include:

1) Chain
A linear trail: A – B – C – D – E. For a message to get from A to E it must pass through B, C & D.

2) Hub
One node acts as the hub for all other nodes: A is connected to B, C, D & E. B through to E have no connection with each other. Should B wish to send a message to E, it must go through A. This does not equate to A being the lead cell, simply the hub cell.

3) Star
The same as for the hub network, but each cell has contact with its two neighbouring cells in addition to A (the central node). So, aside from A, B would connect with E & C; C with B & D; D with C & E, and; E with D & B.

4) All-Channel
Each node is connected to every other: A is connected to B, C, D & E; B to A, C, D, E; C to A, B, D, E; etc.

Such structures result in the decentralisation of decision-making, permitting initiative from each cell and thus making it impossible to topple the organisation in one go. As Arquilla, Ronfeldt & Zanini explain, such an organisational structure can appear to be acephalous (headless) & polycephalous (multi-headed) at the same time. The points of the network with greater connectedness indicate their importance (so, for example, if a hub network was in position as per the example above, targeting A would provide for the greatest effect on operational capability).

Network structures, whilst benefiting from far greater security than conventional hierarchy/cell structures, suffer from low efficiency given the difficulties in getting a message out to all members of the network, with clear implications for organisational unity and strategic coherence. This, however, does not detract from the danger that such a structure poses.

Leaderless Resistance (Security: 4, Efficiency: 1)

The last structure that this piece will analyse is the most secure and the least efficient. An Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) recruitment video describes it perfectly: “Remember, the ELF and each cell within it are anonymous not only to one another but to the general public”. In the truest form of leaderless resistance there is no contact between cells and/or the central command. However, given the spread of the internet and the ease of international communication, such a finite requisite has been watered down (see Pantucci’s lone wolf classifications).

Such a structure (or, more appropriately, a lack of) poses the greatest difficulties to counter-terrorist agencies given the minimal connection between the organisation (or the propagandist of the ideology), and the actor committing the terrorist act (the subscriber to the ideology). As with networks, this form of structure is incalculably aided by developments in information technology (the transformation of terrorism from ‘old’ to ‘new’, see Neumann).

Such a structure is highly secure; it is almost impossible to know which viewers of a website have been radicalised and whether they would ever come to commit an act. But the lack of control over such actors can be incredibly damaging. Should an act be committed by a member of an ideological network in the name of a specified group, resultantly negatively affecting said group’s public support, the group cannot disassociate itself from the act, regardless of its lack of participation in, or support for, the act. Further, given that the organisation propagating the ideology has no control over its ideological movement, such a movement may well disintegrate owing to a lack of developments: these sleeper cells may never wake from their slumber.

An example of leaderless resistance actor would be Roshonara Choudhry.

[toggle title=”Sources & Related Texts”]

Arquilla, J. & Ronfeldt, D. (2001), Networks and Netwars

Beam, L. (1983), Leaderless Resistance

Cronin, A. (2006), How al-Qaida Ends

Hoffman, B. (2006), Inside Terrorism

Neumann, P. (2009), Old and New Terrorism

Pantucci, R. (2011), A Typology of Lone Wolves: Preliminary Analysis of Lone Islamist Terrorists

Sageman, M. (2004), Understanding Terror Networks
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Negotiating With Terrorists

Under what conditions should governments negotiate with terrorists?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

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‘You’ve got to be strong, not weak. The only way to deal with these people is to bring them to justice. You can’t talk to them. You can’t negotiate with them.’

George W. Bush[1]

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eorge Bush articulated the above statement as part of a response to a press conference question concerning Al-Qaeda in 2003. He had clearly summed up his administration’s position on the subject in question – that negotiating with terrorists is a sign of weakness and should thus be avoided, even suggesting that merely talking to them was out of the question. His rhetoric remained consistent throughout his presidency regardless of the actor in question; if they could be successfully labelled ‘terrorist’ then dialogue was instantly deemed unacceptable and counter-productive. For instance, in 2008 he made an address to the Israeli Knesset mocking negotiations with ‘terrorists and radicals’ as half-baked attempts to ‘persuade them that they have been wrong all along.’[2] It is easy to be swept away by the conviction of these words, yet the administration’s actions did not always reflect Bush’s uncompromising language. In Iraq for example, the U.S. military was authorised to negotiate extensively with insurgents who were known to use terrorist tactics against coalition troops and civilians.[3] This essay will examine how and why the conditions arise for negotiations with terrorists and will conclude by suggesting best practices.

Peter Neumann has identified ‘a number conditions [which] must be met in order for talks to even have a chance of success’ – these can be simplified as three questions: who, when and how.[4] ‘Who’ refers to the nature of specific terrorist groups i.e. a government needs to assess ideology, propensity to violence and internal cohesion before committing to a course of action. The IRA made suitable negotiating partners for the British Government because their leaders realised that violence had limited utility and were capable of controlling the rank and file of the organisation. ‘When’ refers to the timing of negotiations in terms of strategic juncture, perhaps when the terrorists have recently suffered an tactical or operational setback, or are otherwise ‘questioning the utility of violence’[5]. ‘How’ refers to the actual format of the negotiations – ideally a ‘broad, multiparty process [which] exposes the terrorists to democratic practices.’[6] In Northern Ireland this was achieved through encouraging the participation of Sinn Féin in the democratic process.

Particularly contentious is Neumann’s assertion that ‘…a government should begin formal negotiations only after the terrorist group has declared a permanent cessation of violence’[7] which is directly contradicted by Jonathan Powell’s declaration that ‘it is always an error to set a precondition to a negotiation.’[8] There is a long, well documented history of deceitful or capricious behaviour by non-state ‘terrorist’ negotiators and the setting of preconditions is intended to provide assurances (mainly) to the government. However, the very act of securing these assurances, such as agreeing upon mechanisms for implementing and monitoring a ceasefire, can derail the whole process. The Government of Colombia has repeatedly experienced these frustrations with FARC.[9]

Neumann does not consider the conditions imposed by the nature of the state actor. It is important, for instance, to contemplate the effects of the counter-terrorism model adopted by the state in question.  In broad terms there are two ways for states to deal with the threat posed by those sub-state actors labelled ‘terrorists’. One might be forgiven for deducing from the above statement alone that George Bush advocates the criminal justice model, which was internationally prevalent until he dramatically declared ‘war on terror’ in an address to congress nine days after the 9/11 attacks. The war model sees terrorism as an act of war (as opposed to a criminal act), leverages military rather than law enforcement assets to provide a maximum force response and proactively searches for terrorists wherever they seek sanctuary (as opposed to the reactive, minimum force employed by the criminal justice model).

The problem with the war model is its high economic and human cost. Currently U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan number 6,399[10], spending on the ‘9/11 wars’ is in excess of $1.3 trillion[11] and consequently the U.S. is growing weary of its open-ended commitment to ‘war on terror’. Hence, in direct contradiction of the above statement the U.S. sought after a negotiated settlement with terrorists in Iraq and similarly the search is now well underway for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and Haqqani network.[12] This turn of events should not have been unexpected. Indeed ‘since the 1990s the majority of armed conflicts have been ended through dialogue, negotiation and compromise’[13]. The war model thus makes negotiations more likely, given the difficulty of developing a plausible theory of victory for Afghanistan or the war on terror more generally. Additionally, terrorists are arguably raised to the international plane (alongside nation-states) by the very act of declaring war on them. This puts the state at a relative disadvantage, hence the war model should only be used where a rapid military victory is realistic and sustainable, a notable recent example of which is the Sri Lankan campaign against the Tamil Tigers 2006-2009.

Bush’s rhetoric therefore seems increasingly nonsensical. However, there is one possible explanation: secret negotiations. Browne and Dickson have examined the secret negotiation policies of other world leaders who have made hard-nosed declarations which condemn terrorists and apparently forgo the possibility of negotiations. In 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel reneged on an earlier assertion that his government would never negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In 1999 José Aznar of Spain entered into peace talks with Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) despite his stated policy of no negotiation being ‘one of his party’s strongest weapons’.[14] Browne and Dickson go on to offer the plausible explanation that this behaviour is actually designed to reduce the state’s bargaining power, thus encouraging terrorists to come to the table. This is because engaging in secret negotiations while publicly decrying them increases the potential ‘audience cost’ for the state – i.e. ‘a leader who denounces a counterpart, but then negotiates with him anyway, and then fails to achieve an agreement may pay a particularly harsh price for appearing irresolute, incompetent, or both.’[15] Despite this risk, secret negotiations are preferable to public negotiations because they avoid conferring the same degree of legitimacy.

Avoiding the legitimisation of terrorism is a key aim of the criminal justice model. In contrast to the war model, terrorists are treated like regular criminals and denied any political recognition. However, this can also backfire, as was demonstrated by the hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and other IRA prisoners in 1981. The Government policy of avoiding public negotiations and offering only limited concessions behind the scenes (which were rejected) led to the death of ten prisoners and ultimately ‘growing polarisation between the two communities in Northern Ireland. In this context, the level of violence within the province climbed once more…’[16]

In summary, favourable conditions for negotiations exist when the government can easily activate existing, reliable channels of communication to negotiate secretly with a coherent and dominant terrorist leadership who have reached a strategic juncture in their campaign. Where possible, the government should use a criminal justice model over a war model, but should be open to the possibility of limited political concessions. Of course, these conditions are rare. However, they are more likely to manifest if dialogue is maintained. As Jonathan Powell puts it: ‘…we had to keep things moving forward like a bicycle…If we ever let the bicycle fall over, we would create a vacuum and that vacuum would be filled with violence.’[17] It therefore follows that to impose preconditions and risk stifling negotiations before they begin is bad practice: ‘It is best to leave the issue of weapons to the end of a peace process.’[18] At the time of writing, the government of Nigeria is struggling to open negotiations with the violent Islamic sect known as Boko Haram (BH). This has been a failure until now, but stands an increasing chance of success as the Nigerian government moves away from the war model towards the criminal justice model and attempts to open channels of communication without preconditions. However, the fractionalisation of BH and its lack of coherence, plus the absence of any apparent ‘strategic juncture’ do not bode well for the immediate future.

 

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[1] George W. Bush quoted in Harmonie Toros: ‘We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’: Legitimacy and Complexity in Terrorist Conflicts, in Security Dialogue 39:407 (SAGE, 2008) p.407

[2] George W. Bush: Address to the Knesset, (15/05/08) available online: http://bit.ly/FR0QkY

[3] See Michael Rubin & Suzanne Gershowitz: Political Strategies to Counterterrorism, (12/07/06) available online: http://bit.ly/aLA8oG

[4] Peter Neumann: Negotiating with Terrorists, in Foreign Affairs 86:1 (CFR, 2007) p.128-138

[5] Ibid. p.132

[6] Ibid. p.135

[7] Ibid. p.133

[8] Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008) p.317

[9] Camilo González Posso: Negotiations with the FARC 1982-2002, in ACCORD: An International Review of Peace Initiatives, (Conciliation Resources in association with CINEP, 2004) p.46-51

[10] Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/

[11] Amy Belasco: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, (CRS, 2011) available online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

[12] Jill Dougherty: U.S. met with Haqqani terrorists this summer, (CNN, 21/10/11) available online: http://bit.ly/nyFrUa

[13] Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011) p.677

[14] Giles Tremlett quoted in Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.398

[15] Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.381

[16] John Bew, Martin Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co. 2009) p.92-93

[17] Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008) p.5

[18] Ibid. p.317

 

Books:

John Bew, Martin Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co. 2009)

Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008)

 

Research Papers:

Peter Neumann: Negotiating with Terrorists, in Foreign Affairs 86:1 (CFR, 2007)

Harmonie Toros: ‘We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’: Legitimacy and Complexity in Terrorist Conflicts, in Security Dialogue 39:407 (SAGE, 2008)

Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011)

Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010)

Camilo González Posso: Negotiations with the FARC 1982-2002, in ACCORD: An International Review of Peace Initiatives, (Conciliation Resources in association with CINEP, 2004)

 

Web Resources:

Amy Belasco: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, (CRS, 2011) available online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

Jill Dougherty: U.S. met with Haqqani terrorists this summer, (CNN, 21/10/11) available online: http://bit.ly/nyFrUa

George W. Bush: Address to the Knesset, (15/05/08) available online: http://bit.ly/FR0QkY

Michael Rubin & Suzanne Gershowitz: Political Strategies to Counterterrorism, (12/07/06) available online: http://bit.ly/aLA8oG

Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/
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