Rethinking small-footprint counter-terrorism: moving from kinetic operations to security force assistance
Date of Issue2014
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
In response to the 'body bag syndrome' produced by the long years in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has adopted a small-footprint strategy founded on kinetic operations designed to capture or kill key militants. Drone strikes and midnight raids by Special Operations Forces (SOF) have become the weapons of choice in the long war on terrorism. Unfortunately, the tactical victories attained via kinetic operations have not translated into corresponding progress at the strategic level. Al-Qaida and affiliated movements continue to enjoy a plethora of eager recruits and a wide selection of lawless ' grey areas ' from which to conduct their operations. In light of the strategic futility of current policy, this paper argues that the United States should reassess its reliance on kinetic operations, instead concentrating on Security Force Assistance (SFA). The threats emanating from nefarious sub-state actors are best tackled by SFA programmes that build host-nation capacity and facilitate local responses to local problems. Working closely with host-nation forces enables the U.S. to tackle the underlying drivers of terrorism without imposing a large military presence on foreign soil. Drawing on the experiences of U.S. advisory efforts in El Salvador and the Philippines, this paper demonstrates that a counter-terrorism strategy centred on Security Force Assistance holds far more potential than the current enemy-centric policy. Ultimately, building host-nation capacity provides a permanent, sustainable and cost-effective method of tackling the transnational terrorist threat posed by al-Qaida and affiliated movements.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science