July 30, 2008

How to End a Terrorist Group: A Survey from 1968-2006

The RAND Corporation has conducted the first systematic review of terrorists groups and the primary reason that the group ends its operations. Between 1968 and 2006 the study identified 648 terrorist groups, a total of 286 ended during that period while another 136 groups splintered and 244 remained active.

Policing (penetrated and ended by local police and intelligence agencies) and political accommodation accounted for 83% of the termination of group activities. Two reasons (victory and military force) included fighting until one side achieved victory, and interestingly enough the terrorists won (10%) more than a state's military (7%). Looking closer into military force reveals that it is far more effective against a large, well armed, and well organized group; indicating that military force was usually too blunt an instrument to deal with most terrorist groups.

Religiously motivated terrorist groups took longer to eliminate than other groups but rarely achieved their objectives; no religiously motivated group achieved victory during the period studied. The report continues to offer suggestions on how to more effectively deal with al Qa'ida.

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