Islamic terrorist organizations have been remarkably ineffective at taking out their primary targets: western military and government personnel and installations. There are several reasons for this. The main one is that Islamic radicalism does not attract the best and the brightest. Its appeal is mainly to the down and out and least employable. Moreover, Islam, as a culture, has not encouraged the kind of education that aids economic growth. So the Moslem world does not have a lot of technically adept men to recruit in the first place. Then there is the conservative Moslem attitude towards women, which keeps them from getting involved much in Islamic terror activities (or any work outside the home). A key factor in the greater economic growth and scientific progress in the West has been the growing use of women in the work force. Western terrorists have been more lethal because of greater technical skills and the use of women.
What all this does do is make Islamic terror groups even more dependent on what few talented and trained people they do have. Over a decade ago the Israelis found that Palestinian terror groups were particularly vulnerable to the loss of leaders and “engineers” (those who knew how to build bombs or handle any other technical chore). Israel targeted these key people and the Palestinian terrorists became a lot less effective.
The U.S. continued these tactics in 2004, as Islamic terrorists allied themselves with Iraqi Sunni Arabs seeking to use terror to regain control of Iraq for the Sunni Arab minority. The Americans added another refinement that sought to measure more precisely the value of each member in a network. This was done largely because of the huge quantity of data collected on dead, captured, and suspected terrorists. This sort of analysis led to the capture of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and many other senior terrorist leaders. Over the last decade, these “decapitation” tactics have become more powerful as it was found that removing (by death, desertion, or arrest) a few key leaders or engineers you could do enormous damage to the efficiency of a terrorist organization.
The analysis also shows which terrorist leaders and techies to leave alone because they are doing more harm than good to their organization. Sometimes this is only because these key people are difficult to get along with and are disruptive to terrorist operations, while at the same time appearing essential to their fellow terrorists. This sort of analysis is nothing new. During the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, it was often noted that certain enemy generals, who were well connected politically but pretty inept when in charge of troops, were worth a lot more to their foes than to their own side.
There are other types of criminal leaders to keep track of. The Islamic terror groups have become dependent on non-religious allies for help in dealing with all this infidel (non-Moslem) sorcery. The Taliban in Afghanistan have the drug gangs to help out, as the drug lords will hire mercenaries of all types, from anywhere, in order to get the skills they need. Al Qaeda in North Africa has also relied on alliances with drug gangs, as well as simply buying services from criminal organizations who want nothing to do with Islamic extremism (beyond making a quick buck for services rendered).
In general, Islamic radical groups have a hard time hiring mercenary tech experts because most mercs don’t want to get involved with Islamic terrorists. This sort of affiliation attracts too much heat and is not worth the potential hassle. So the Islamic terrorists have to pay more to go through third parties and hope the mercs don’t find out who they are really working for (and flee, leaving the job uncompleted).