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The world’s leading scholars of terrorism investigate the organizational structures and operational links of Islamist terrorist movements around the globe. The jihadist ecosystem since 9/11, write Hoffman (Security Studies/Georgetown Univ.; Inside Terrorism, 1998) and Reinares (Political Science and Security Studies/Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), has been a “a dynamically heterogeneous collection of both radicalized individuals and functioning terrorist organizations…but the al-Qaeda senior leadership nonetheless appeared to have had a direct hand in the most important and potentially high-payoff operations.” With contributions from 25 researchers, this richly annotated, scholarly compilation analyzes two dozen attacks and attempts in the West and the Muslim world, from highly successful bombings to plots derailed before they posed a major threat.

In Europe, write Peter R. Neumann and Ryan Evans, there is “a milieu in which ostensibly nonviolent groups…provided entry points into organized jihadist structures…even if [al-Qaida’s] leadership played no active role in facilitating such links.” Meanwhile, in Australia, writes Sally Neighbour, “an independent cohort of Australian citizens, most of them locally born and raised, had formed a group of their own and conspired to launch an attack on Australian soil.” Even before the rise of ISIS, the situation in Iraq was most fluid and concerning; the local al-Qaida affiliate had a history of feuding with headquarters in Pakistan and was seen as “an ideologically incoherent and…operationally decentralized movement that is capable of plotting terrorist attacks but seems incapable of exerting significant command and control,” according to Mohammed M. Hafez. Throughout, the contributors stress the importance of identifying and eliminating al-Qaida’s “middle managers,” who motivate and finance otherwise isolated cells, and argue that when these vital connections are cut, the far-flung groups descend into confusion and infighting. While events since the death of bin Laden have complicated the picture, this book serves as a useful starting point for readers who wish to understand how to unravel and defuse terrorist threats.

Publication Date: 2014-10-28
Publisher: Columbia Univ.