Sunday, February 19, 2006

I joined al-Qaeda for the Benefits

The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point has done a study that shows,among other things, that al-Qaeda has a corporate structure which allows its opperatives far more vacation time than the American worker, though the pay is less than stellar:
"The corporate culture appears to be similar to other modern organizations," the study states.

Indeed, some of the documents used by researchers indicate that al Qaeda has vacation plans -- seven days every three weeks for married members, five days a month for bachelors -- and provides its members with 15 days of sick leave a year.

One document states that al Qaeda operatives must request vacation 10 weeks in advance, and another document outlines the pay scale for members: about $108 a month for married members, less if they're single and more if they have more than one wife.

The Harmony documents, some of which date back to the 1970s, when Islamists tried to overthrow the secular government of Syria, "also reveal a high level of arrogance and intense ambition" common to jihadist groups, the study states.

"While the theology may seem reactionary, the organization insists on using modern management principles as well. Instruction is provided on applying information technology, manipulating the media and researching the use of nuclear weapons for the cause of jihad."

More surprisingly, the study suggests that "the United States should conduct counterinsurgency and psychological operations against terrorist organizations in a subtle manner that avoids 'direct engagement' whenever possible."

So, one may ask, how could an entity (say, a country like the United States) take advantage of this structure?

1. Disrupt al-Qa’ida’s control of operations and limit its financial efficiency.
(see graph)

2. Constrain al-Qa’ida’s security environment.

3. Prioritize efforts based on sub-group vulnerabilities.

4. Conduct an aggressive study of jihadi strategy and foreign policy.

5. Deny jihadi groups the benefit of security vacuums they seek to exploit and create.

6. Turn the jihadi vanguard back on itself.

7. Confuse, humiliate, demoralize and embarrass the jihadi rank-in-file.

8. Subvert the authority of senior commanders.

9. Facilitate misunderstanding as well as understanding of America’s intentions and capacity.

10. Force jihadi propagandists back on their heels.

11. Understand and exploit the ideological breaks in the jihadi movement.

12. Anticipate al-Qa’ida’s transformation from an organization to a social movement.

One interesting note:
The Combating Terrorism Center and the al-Qaeda's own words within the Harmony documents go a long way in debunking the myth that al-Qaeda possesses an infinte pool of talent capable of stepping in for experienced leaders jilled [sic: jailed] or captured on the field of battle.

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