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Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa'ida's Organizational Vulnerabilities

Published onFeb 14, 2006
Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa'ida's Organizational Vulnerabilities
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Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa'ida's Organizational Vulnerabilities
Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa'ida's Organizational Vulnerabilities
Description

This study, conducted by the faculty and research fellows of the Combating Terrorism Center CTC at West Point, serves multiple purposes, the most important of which is contributing to the depth of knowledge about the al-Qaida movement. Evidence supporting the conclusions and recommendations provided in this report is drawn from a collection of newly-released al-Qaida documents captured during recent operations in support of the Global War on Terror and maintained in the Department of Defenses Harmony database. In the text of these documents, readers will see how explicit al-Qaida has been in its internal discussions covering a range of organizational issues, particularly regarding the internal structure and functioning of the movement as well as with tensions that emerged within the leadership. In the first part of the report, we provide a theoretical framework, drawing on scholarly approaches including organization and agency theory, to predict where we should expect terrorist groups to face their greatest challenges in conducting operations. The framework is informed as much as possible by the captured documents, and provides a foundation upon which scholars can build as more of these documents are declassified and released to the public. Our analysis stresses that, by their nature, terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida face difficulties in almost any operational environment, particularly in terms of maintaining situational awareness, controlling the use of violence to achieve specified political ends, and of course, preventing local authorities from degrading the groups capabilities. But they also face problems common to other types of organizations, including private firms, political parties, and traditional insurgencies.

 

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