David M. Crane to Speak on Yemen Crisis at Stimson Center Event

David Crane Stimson CenterINSCT Faculty Member David M. Crane will join other distinguished international law scholars and practitioners at “Crisis in Yemen: Accountability and Reparations,” an event designed to bring the world’s attention to a growing humanitarian disaster in this Middle East nation.

The panel discussion takes place at The Stimson Center in Washington, DC, on June 26, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The simulcast can be viewed here.

Sponsored by the American Society of International Law, the Stimson Center, and the Washington Foreign Law Society, the panel also features Stephen Rapp, Former US Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes; Mark Agrast, Executive Director, American Society of International Law; and Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch, among others. View the full list of panelists here.

The Yemen Civil War, which had its roots in the political upheaval of 2011-2012, has since turned into a complex conflict among a central, recognized government and its powerful Saudi-led allies, an alternative government in the country’s north backed by Houthi rebels, and several terrorist groups.

Escalating in 2015, the civil war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. An estimated three quarters of the civilian population have been affected by the devastation from warring parties on all sides. Death, disappearances, detentions, torture, displacement and famine are ravishing the country. A cholera epidemic is being exacerbated by raids on civilian populations.

Meanwhile, critical ports for delivery of food and medicines have been blocked. Arms and deadly munitions, funded by the US and UK, have proliferated. Secret prisons established inside and outside the country are detaining countless numbers of civilians, women, children, and aid workers.

The panel of experts, led by Rapp and Crane, will assess the situation on the ground in this stage of the Yemen crisis, and propose solutions drawn from fundamental international laws and standards.

William C. Banks to Discuss “Fighting at the Legal Boundaries” During Georgetown Law Workshop

INSCT Director William C. Banks—an expert on new battlefields, asymmetric warfare, enemy combatants, and other jus in bello issues in modern warfare—will be a discussant at the Georgetown Law Center workshop on “Fighting at the Legal Boundaries: Controlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict.”

The workshop addresses a book by Kenneth Watkin, QC, which offers a holistic approach toward the application of the various constitutive parts of international law and that reviews case studies on how international law addresses insurgents, terrorists, and transnational criminal gangs.

The Nov. 17, 2017, workshop is sponsored by the Georgetown Law Center, Center of the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law, and Human Rights First.

Workshop Commentators are:

  • Geoffrey Corn, Presidential Research Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law
  • Laura Dickinson, Oswald Symister Colclough Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
  • Noam Lubell, Professor, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Marko Milanovic, Associate Professor in Law, University of Nottingham
  • Tom Ruys, Professor, Department of European, Public, and International Law, University of Ghent
  • Rachel Van Landingham, Associate Professor, Southwestern University School of Law

Workshop Discussants are:

  • Ken Watkin, author, Fighting at the Legal Boundaries: Controlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict
  • William C. Banks, Director, INSCT
  • Gabriella Blum, Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Harvard Law School
  • Audrey Kurth Cronin, Professor, American University School of International Service
  • Janina Dill, University of Oxford
  • Charles Dunlap Jr., Executive Director, Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, Duke University
  • Josh Geltzer, Executive Director, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Georgetown Law
  • CPT Todd Huntley, Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, VA
  • Richard Jackson, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Marty Lederman, Associate Professor, Georgetown Law Center
  • Dan Mahanty, Senior Adviser, Center for Civilians in Conflict
  • Jens David Ohlin, Vice Dean and Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  • Deborah Pearlstein, Professor, Cardozo School of Law
  • Stephen Pomper, former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, Multilateral Affairs, and Human Rights, National Security Council
  • Charles Sabga, Acting Deputy, New York Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Gary Solis, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law Center
  • Emily Spencer, Director, Education and Research Centre, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command
  • Jane Stromseth, Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center

Moderators are:

  • Mitt Regan, McDevitt Professor of Jurisprudence, Georgetown Law Center
  • Rita Siemion, International Legal Counsel, Human Rights First
  • Heather Brandon, Advocacy Counsel, National Security, Human Rights First

The Al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of Al-Qaeda & Its Consequences

By Isaac Kfir

Review of The Al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of Al-Qaeda & Its Consequences by Barak Mendelsohn (Oxford, 2016)

In The Al-Qaeda Franchise, Barak Mendelsohn offers an interesting view of al-Qaeda’s strategy over the last decade, specifically what he describes as its franchising strategy. The book, with a rather ambitious thesis, assesses how this franchising strategy impacted the organization and in doing so makes some suggestions to policymakers as to how they should devise a counterterrorism strategy. In making this argument, Mendelsohn seeks to show that the franchising strategy has not made al-Qaeda more dangerous nor stronger, but rather has weakened it, as it has had to adapt to local conditions and demands.

“Mendelsohn’s argument is that although in 2003 and 2004 when policymakers looked at al-Qaeda’s operation in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and saw an organization they thought was strong, in fact it was far from that. “

The book has two principal sections. The first, which is far more interesting, lays out the theoretical framework, whereas the second part, chapters 6 to 9, provides case studies to support Mendelsohn’s theoretical exposition.

The author’s theoretical framework is effectively a typology of formal organizational expansion, where he distinguishes between absorption, branching out, unification, and umbrella groups (each is given its own chapter later on in the book, though the main focus of the book is with the branching out strategy). These approaches to expansion are distinct, and although there may be some overlap, by his focusing on the type of expansion, insight emerges as to the objective of the organization and the threat they pose. Such an approach could be enormously useful for policymakers as they struggle with various counterterrorism policies.

In discussing the various expansion strategies, Mendelsohn correctly asserts that organizational expansion operates at a higher level than operational adaptation in that the former demands a willingness to accept structural changes, whereas the latter focuses mainly on tactics. In laying out this basic premise, Mendelsohn provides support to those who argue that al-Qaeda’s ideology is not merely theological, emphasizing a need for strict adherence, but rather is flexible. Put differently, instead of seeing al-Qaeda as an uncompromising, dogmatic terror group, Mendelsohn sees it as a rational actor, committed to expanding its influence even if it is at the cost of its theological cohesion.

To understand the expansion strategy, particularly when it comes to branching out, there is a need to consider what Mendelsohn calls the actors-based perspective and the arena-based perspective. The former essentially refers to psychological elements that impact upon the group and its leaders. The latter has three considerations. First, ideational values. This means that an arena becomes attractive to a group not only because of religious or historical aspects, but also for ideological reasons. Thus, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Palestine, for instance, are attractive to a group such as al-Qaeda, as each combines all three elements: religion, history and ideology. That is, these locals have religious, historical and ideological values for existing and having potential recruits.

The second consideration is a strategic value, which is when an organization identifies certain fronts as being vital for its overall mission success. In the case of al-Qaeda, its strategic area of choice was the Middle East, as noted by al-Zawahiri in 2001 when he called for the organization to establish a base in the Middle East. Oddly enough though, al-Qaeda has not been very successful in this region; as seen for example with its failure to establish a base in Saudi Arabia or Palestine. The third consideration is internal characteristics, because when one introduces new actors into a group, the group naturally changes.

The next chapters analyze the franchising strategy. The first attempt was in Saudi Arabia, with the founding of an al-Qaeda branch in the Kingdom (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and the merger with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group, Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (TWJ, Organization of Monotheism and Jihad), which operated in Iraq following the US invasion.

Mendelsohn’s argument is that although in 2003 and 2004 when policymakers looked at al-Qaeda’s operation in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and saw an organization they thought was strong, in fact it was far from that. The al-Qaeda branch in Saudi Arabia had suffered devastating losses mainly because of the counteroffensive policies of the Saudi regime. This not only claimed the lives of al-Qaeda recruits, but forced the regime to take a proactive stance against the organization …

To read the whole review, click here.

Isaac Kfir, Associate Professor at Tokyo International University, is an INSCT Research and Practice Associate.

SU Experts Discuss US Strategy to Combat ISIS After Paris Attacks

(Re-published from The Daily Orange, Nov. 30, 2015) US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter agreed that the US is at war with the Islamic State during a Nov. 19 MSNBC interview, adding that the US must and will defeat ISIS. Carter’s comment came a few days after French President Francois Hollande declared France is at war with the extremist group, which claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people. The Daily Orange interviewed Robert Murrett, Deputy Director of INSCT; Isaac Kfir, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at SU College of Law; and Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Professor and Chair of Political Science at SU Maxwell School, about Carter’s remark and the future of US strategy against ISIS.

The Daily Orange: Do you agree with Carter’s remark?

“I don’t think anyone can say that the counterinsurgency online or offline has worked well.”

Robert Murrett: First, I completely agree with what Secretary Carter said in the interview. Certainly the campaign that has been ongoing for some time now—both in terms of special operations and also a very significant air campaign against ISIS (or ISIL or Daesh)—does represent an “armed conflict,” and I think the Secretary was certainly accurate to describe it as such.

Isaac Kfir: Technically, the US is not in a state of war with ISIS as under the Constitution, and I would also add that it is important to be careful when using such terms as “war,” as it is such a loaded concept that calls for the total mobilization of resources of the state.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi: I believe Secretary Carter is using the word “war” loosely here. The first prerequisite for waging a successful war is to have a clear strategy. But the administration has not made it clear whether its strategy is one of destroying or containing ISIS. At this moment, I don’t see a holistic plan to fight ISIS. You won’t be able to defeat it with an aerial campaign, the same way it did not work against a determined nemesis such as the Taliban.

D.O.:  Do you see President Barack Obama changing his strategy anytime soon because of international pressure after the Paris attacks?

I.K.: It seems unlikely that President Obama would change US policy at the moment, such as commit US ground troops. This is because the administration is still trying to figure out its own response to ISIS. Second, it was President Obama who brought the troops back from Iraq, which is why he is unlikely to send troops back to Iraq. Third, in the US we are also heading for an election year, and it is unlikely that President Obama would commit US troops and leave the matter for the next president.

R.M.: I think the strategy that the US has set with respect to insurgent groups worldwide—not just the ones that we are dealing with now by recent events—will continue to evolve and continue to be responsive because strategy cannot be static ever. I think the administration has continued to modify their strategies as time goes on.

D.O.: Do you think the kind of attacks that happened in Paris would be a new norm in Western society?

R.M.: I would say that it already is. I remained very concerned and I would also state that, yes, there will be more significant attacks by Sunni extremists and other affiliates and like-mindeds well into the future.

D.O.: ISIS has embraced the Internet as a tool of recruitment and spread its ideology. Are you satisfied with the current level of engagement online to defeat and degrade IS?

M.B.: Judging by the fact that ISIS has had no problem attracting foreign-born recruits—estimated to make up 20% of its manpower—and its leader has now secured the allegiance of 36 affiliate groups around the world, I don’t think anyone can say that the counterinsurgency online or offline has worked well.

View the original article here.

ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism

By Courtney Schuster (L ’13), David Sterman, & Peter Bergen

“An unprecedented number of the militant recruits are female, young (with an average age of 24), and active in online jihadist circles.”

Who exactly are the estimated 4,500 Westerners drawn to join ISIS and other militant groups in Syria, and how great of a threat do they pose?

In the wake of Friday’s harrowing terrorist attacks in Paris, New America’s Peter Bergen, INSCT alumna Courtney Schuster (L ’13), and David Sterman have published “ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism,” a new report reviewing what is known about the Westerners drawn to Jihadist groups.

New America has collected information about 475 individuals from 25 Western countries who have been reported by credible news sources as having left their home countries to join ISIS or other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq.

The report finds:

  • Western fighters in Syria and Iraq represent a new demographic profile. An unprecedented number of the militant recruits are female, young (with an average age of 24), and active in online jihadist circles. This is quite different from Western militants who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s or Bosnia in the 1990s.
  • Many have familial ties to jihadism. One-third of Western fighters have a familial connection to jihad, whether through relatives currently fighting in Syria or Iraq, marriage, or some other link to jihadists from prior conflicts or terrorist attacks.
  • The likeliest threat to the US comes from ISIS-inspired violence. Returning fighters from Syria pose a limited threat to the US, while the threat from returning fighters to other Western countries is greater.
  • Few of the Western fighters who have traveled to Syria or Iraq are in government custody. Only one-sixth of Western fighters in New America’s dataset are in custody and more than two-fifths of the individuals are still at large.
  • The wars in Syria and Iraq have proven deadly for Western militants. Almost two-fifths of Western fighters in New America’s dataset have been reported as dead in Syria or Iraq. Almost half of the male foreign fighters and six percent of female militants have been killed.
  • The majority of Western fighters have joined ISIS. Only one-tenth have joined Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, and only six percent have joined other smaller groups.
  • The most popular route to Syria is through Turkey. Forty-two percent of the Western foreign fighters made their way to Syria or Iraq via Turkey.

To read the full report from New America, click here.

INSCT alumna Courtney Schuster (L ’13) is a program associate for the International Security Program at New America. David Sterman is a senior program associate at New America and holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. Peter Bergen is Vice President; Director of Studies; and Director of the International Security, Future of War, and Fellows programs at New America and a frequent contributor to CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.

What Can Be Learned from Paris’s Black Friday the 13th

By Boaz Ganor

(Re-published from The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 15, 2015) On Friday, France, Europe and the whole world experienced a significant escalation in the international terror campaign being waged by the Islamic State organization. The biggest terrorist attack to hit Europe in years, which caused a terrible bloodbath during the course of which hundreds of innocent people were killed and wounded, requires a precise investigation of the series of events before and during the attack; the policies of France, Europe and the rest of the world; as well as a probe of the current doctrine for countering terror in the West.

“The terrorists who executed the attacks Friday night might have been part of a sleeper cell of European Islamist ‘foreign fighters’ who returned from Syria and Iraq and maintained contact with ISIS as its operators in France.”
From this perspective, it appears that France marks the misconception and Western failure when it comes to the way many European and Western countries deal with terrorism.

It is interesting to note that most of the terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic-jihadist militants in Europe recently focused on France or have some connection with France. Take, for example, the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, and even the one on the Belgium Jewish Museum in Brussels, carried out by the terrorist Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who crossed the border to Brussels and then returned to France.

All signs point to ISIS terrorists carrying out the simultaneous attacks on Friday night, even though they reflect a change in the modus operandi usually adopted by the organization and an adoption of the methods used in the past by al-Qaida in complex, multi-faceted, meticulously planned attacks carried out by well-coordinated cells.

Contrary to past attacks carried out by ISIS in Europe and France, which were for the most part executed by lone wolves or a small group of relatives or friends inspired by Islamic State but without receiving operational aid from the organization, this time the attacks probably were carried out by a cell that was enlisted, trained and given support and operational instructions from the organization.

The terrorists who executed the attacks Friday night might have been part of a sleeper cell of European Islamist “foreign fighters” who returned from Syria and Iraq and maintained contact with ISIS as its operators in France. According to French security sources, there are many dozens of such ISIS operators in France who fit this description.

Another possibility is that the attacks were carried out by a cell that infiltrated into France from outside with the express purpose of executing them (on the model of the 9/11 attacks in the United States). In this case, it is possible that the terrorists came from Syria, Iraq or other countries under the guise of the recent mass wave of migration to Europe.

The attacks in Paris indicate a very high level of planning, preparation and execution capabilities. They involved coordination of massive attacks in a simultaneous or gradual fashion at six different locations, during which separate cells carried out attacks at around the same time at different areas of Paris.

In this case, the terrorist cells integrated shooting attacks, mass killings, suicide bombings and hostage-taking, while on the face of it, the terrorists all planned suicides rather than negotiating over hostages.

The very fact that the terrorists included in their series of dramatic plans “the classical suicide attack,” signals that this was an organizational terrorist attack and not an independent initiative of a lone wolf. (In this context, it is worth noting that all the suicide attacks carried out in different parts of the world in which terrorists carried bombs and detonated them to kill as many people as possible were dispatched by organizations and not lone wolves …

To read the full article, click here.

Dr. Boaz Ganor is Founder and Executive Director of INSCT Partner Institution the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and Ronald Lauder Chair for Counter-Terrorism and Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel.

“State-Building & Non-State Armed Actors in Somalia,” with Ken Menkhaus Now Online

Davidson College Professor of Political Science Ken Menkhaus discusses his recent research on Somalia; the efforts to build a stable state in this troubled Horn of Africa country, despite ongoing conflict; how the “commodification of security sector work” challenges state-building; and the connection between non-state armed actors, security, and development.

Menkhaus has extensive knowledge of these topics, having served as Special Political Advisor in the UN Operation in Somalia; as a visiting civilian professor at the US Army Peacekeeping Institute in 1994-1995; and as a visiting scholar at the US Army Strategic Studies Institute in 2011-2012. In 2004, he received a United States Institute of Peace grant for his research on armed conflict in the Horn of Africa.

In addition to his extensive academic work, Menkaus continues to do professional work in applied settings, serving as a consultant for the UN, US government, NGOs, and policy research institutes. He’s provided expert testimony on five occasions before Congressional subcommittees, and he has been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, FOX, Al Jazeera, NPR’s All Things Considered, the Voice of America, the Diane Rehm Show, and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, among other media outlets.

Menkhaus has published more than 50 articles, book chapters, and monographs, including Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (2004); “Governance without Government in Somalia” in International Security (2007); and “State Fragility as Wicked Problem” in PRISM (2010).

New Battlefields/Old Laws Workshop, Simulation to Address Foreign Terrorist Fighters

One of INSCT’s signature projects, New Battlefields/Old Laws (NBOL) began with a 2007 symposium to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Hague Convention of 1907 (“Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land”). It has since grown into a series of interdisciplinary workshops and associated publications that reexamine the application of centuries-old laws and customs of armed conflict in the age of non-conventional, asymmetric warfare.

The 2015 edition of New Battlefields/Old Laws will convene at the headquarters of project partner the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya, Israel during ICT’s World Summit on Counter-Terrorism on Sept. 10, 2015. Titled “The Threat of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and UN Security Council Resolution 2178,” the workshop (and a related simulation) will explore what nations can do to prosecute, prevent, and/or de-radicalize nationals who wish to fight for insurgent and terrorist organizations in North Africa, the Middle East, and other regions.

Calling foreign terrorist fighting a “scourge on a global level,” the United Nations passed Resolution 2178 in September 2014. It called for all signatories to ensure that their legal systems can prosecute travel for terrorism or related training and the financing or facilitation of such activities. It also called for nations to take measures to curb radicalization within their own borders and to better monitor the travel of would-be insurgents and mercenaries “in order to avoid ‘feeding the monster’ of terrorism.”

Taking part in the morning workshop will be project lead William C. Banks, Dean of SU College of Law and Director of INSCT, and SU Law Associate Professor Nathan Sales. They will be joined by Peter Neumann, Director, International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, King’s College, London; David Scharia, Senior Legal Officer, Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, UN Security Council; Gregory Rose, Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, Australia; and Daphné Richemond-Barak, Senior Researcher and Head of the Terrorism and International Law Desk, ICT.

During the afternoon of Sept. 10, a simulation will further explore the issues raised during the workshop. “The Threat of Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters to Europe” takes as its backdrop the continuing asymmetric war between Islamic State and world coalition-backed forces in Syria, Iraq, and Kurdistan. In this simulation, a group of European foreign fighters is reportedly planning a large-scale attack in their state of origin, and senior security officials of the home state must act to prevent the attack and bring the would-be perpetrators and their associates to justice.

Distinguished counterterrorism experts who will be playing roles in the simulation are Brian M. Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President, RAND Corporation (Prime Minister); Dimitar  Mihaylov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the State of Israel (Minister of Defense); Daphné Richemond-Barak, ICT (Minister of Justice); Michèle Coninsx, President, EUROJUST (Minister of Interior); LTC Bryan Price, Director, Combating Terrorism Center, US Military Academy at West Point (National Security Adviser); LTC Edward Brady, US Army War College Fellow, ICT (Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces); David Scharia, UN Security Council (Chief Prosecutor); Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Orit Adato, Associate, ICT, and Former Commissioner, Israeli Prison Service (Head of the Prison Service); and Rohan Gunaratna, Director, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Head of De-Radicalization Programs).

More information about the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, NBOL, and other workshops can be found here.