Counter-Terrorism: Freelancers Become The Big Threat

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December 13, 2011: It's been a bad year for al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations. While al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's death earlier this year made headlines it was little noticed that eight of the top twenty al Qaeda officials were killed in the past 12 months. Other Islamic terror groups in the Philippines, Indonesia, Kashmir, and Pakistan suffered similar losses. In short, it has become very risky to be in the leadership of an Islamic terror organization.

Those that still survive and function do so at great cost in lives and money. While some Islamic terror organizations are state subsidized (like several in Pakistan) most simply have a gangster wing that raises money the old-fashioned way (theft, kidnapping, extortion, smuggling). One can still raise cash from wealthy Arabs in the oil-rich Persian Gulf states. But this has become more dangerous, to both the fund-raisers and the donors. So the big terrorist groups have been distracted from planning attacks in the West.

What is happening here is that the threat of attacks on targets in the West is less likely to come from the organized terrorist organizations and more likely to come from independent operators inspired by Islamic radical propaganda on the Internet or other electronic media. The Western intelligence agencies monitor these independents, who are often migrants to the West or the children of migrants. A growing number are local Moslems, often recent converts, who are getting into this sort of thing. The good news is that most of these freelance terrorists are not very capable. The bad news is that there are a lot of them. Western intelligence agencies monitor thousands in North America and Europe and pounce when any of their suspects get too close to carrying out an attack. This sometimes brings cries of entrapment but so far this has not stopped any prosecutions.

The large number of amateurs operating in the West means that eventually a few are going to get lucky and kill a lot of people. The only way to halt this is to stop the flow of Islamic radical propaganda. That is not going to happen quickly. This flood of faith-based hatred has been coming out of the Islamic world for centuries and has simply become louder because of Western technology. The cultural, economic and, political problems in the Moslem world are the root cause of all this and those flaws are not going to be fixed quickly. But at least the current round of terrorist violence has made prominent Moslems willing to recognize their problems and try to do something about it.

 


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