Deconstructing Terrorism: A Holistic Approach

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 By Air commodore(R) Khalid Iqbal, Consultant IPRI[1]



(Violation and extremism are mutually supportive phenomena, both lead towards terrorism. The anatomy of terrorism is a complex matter. Broadly speaking, it has three distinct hierarchical streams: global, regional and local. These may operate in intricate unison, in isolated pockets, or in various combinations of the two. The global or strategic tier operates at an international level for enacting forced regime changes; the regional or operational tier carries out disruptive and destructive campaigns to soften the states, and then knowingly or unknowingly deliver these fragile states to the strategic tier for the final push. At a local/ tactical level, isolated pockets of ethno-sectarian groups keep the pot boiling through attrition campaigns against rival groups.

Radicalization and extremism are the formative evolutionary stages leading to terrorism. The degree of militancy escalation depends on the extent of maturation and integration of these stages. The logistics of terrorism is the underwriter of the entire enterprise; and ironically, it is the least talked about factor. Hardly any terror network is found wanting in resource mobilization. Resource providers quickly spot them and offer requisite support. This results in accommodating the financier’s agenda by terrorist entities, and accounts for paradoxes in these entities’ articulations and practices.

At the intra-state level, genesis of terrorism is also attributed to the state’s abdication of its fundamental social security obligations like health, education and disaster management; this void is incrementally filled by non-government entities. Some of these outfits also tend to lay claim over the vital state function of raising and employing armed entities.

Contemporary Western thought tends to present Muslims and Terrorists as conjoint. However, prominent representative of non-Muslim militant struggles have also, at one stage or the other, carried the tag of terrorism. Hence, equating Muslims with terrorists is a gross overstatement. The current militant Muslim mindset can be understood as an outcome of the Muslim sense of victimhood at the hands of a dominant West on various counts and the failure of the West dominated international organizations to deliver a fair deal to Muslims.

Post 9/11 counter terrorism efforts by international organizations have often drifted from the desired equitable approach. Selective and discriminatory application of international laws aimed at achieving an undeclared agenda has discredited international counter terrorism efforts. Even mammoth military interventions, in the name of countering terrorism, have only led to a messier environment. Hasty generalization and oversimplification has mixed things up — genuine freedom struggles, political insurgencies, struggle against violations of international humanitarian law, state and non-state terrorism, etc.  – Author)


New terrorist landscapes are continuously evolving in all parts of the world. However, terrorism is far from a new phenomenon. It has, been a continuous phenomenon throughout contemporary history. Some trace it back to the French revolution and the Nihilists of nineteenth century Russia[i]. Despite the historic existence and apparent global omnipresence of terrorism in wars, politics, media and society at large, there is no commonly accepted understanding of what actually constitutes ‘terrorism’.

For the last two decades or so, terrorism has been a subject of a vast amount of research due to its omnipresence, and fixation of definitional debate around legitimacy. Terrorism is a ubiquitous hydra that has become the Bubonic plague of this century. It has permeated all segments of international society. As a consequence of ‘Globalization’ of economies and through better and faster connectivity, organized crime has become global and transnational. The conjoint and symbiotic relationship between organized crime and terrorism has led to regionalization and globalization of terrorism as well. Since 9/11, there is hardly any place unaffected by terrorism. Terrorism has added new dimensions to domestic fault-lines and previously fermenting regional and international disputes; moreover, previously dormant sub-national conflicts having trans-national expanse are also resurfacing with added vigour.

This has also recast the nature of contemporary warfare —rapidly changing positions between 3rd, 4th and 5th generation models, with hybrid toppings of various hues.  The old type of state-centric warfare in which the sovereign state is the principal actor and its standing military forces are the implementation tool for symmetric warfare for specific geo-political objectives like conquering territory (3rd Generation) is giving way to new trends. A typical conflict conducted in a highly organised and ritualised manner between designated armies with established codes of conduct for the specific purpose of achieving perceived gains is no longer in vogue. Inter-state conflict has been replaced by intra-state and trans-state conflicts; these take the form of asymmetric warfare between groups, movements and organisations often against the state, but not necessarily within state boundaries. New conflicts are often ethno-sectarian centred identity focused conflicts, characterised by hatred, fear and genocide; not bound by formal declarations of war or truce. These are typified by violence and attrition. In intrastate conflicts, militants either belong to or are facilitated and commanded by fifth columnists. Secessionist movements and multi-group civil war are new forms of conflict. War stands dehumanized. Due to the trans-national spread of various ethno-sectarian identities, conflicts are increasingly becoming a trans-regional activity.

Contemporary terrorist entities identify themselves at micro as well as at macro levels; varying from the isolated world of sub-national minorities—weak, disempowered, disenfranchised and angry—to another kind of minority—networked, globalized, transnational, armed, and dangerous. Highly skilled small groups and trans-national sleeper cells are increasingly gaining prominence. Previously considered indigenous ‘terrorist’ groups involved in localized conflicts are now often perceived to be linked to transnational and worldwide networks. The inadequacies of the nation state stand exposed, with no alternative state structure in sight.

The study of terrorism has become predominantly preoccupied with what constitutes terrorism and how to counter it, rather than pondering on why it manifests and how it morphs. As a corollary, terrorism is viewed relative to the legitimacy of state governance, or as specific methods of political violence, like hijacking, bombing or acts of violence against a specific target group, particularly civilians[ii].

New conflicts are often underwritten by religious or ethno-nationalist ideas and focused against state structures, governance instruments/institutions as well as civilians. Degradation of an established structure of governance under pressure from an ethno-sectarian identity has been a recurring phenomenon in recent history. This is also manifested by the globalisation debate in which the established borders, populations and governance of the state are increasingly undermined by social interconnectedness and trans-state and supra-state forms of global governance structures. Emerging trends of conflict relate to nations, communities, groups and individuals, often within states or irrespective of established state boundaries. It is necessary to move beyond the state, to discover and recognise the roots of terrorism centred conflicts deeply grounded in sub-disciplines like: identity, representation and participation issues.

The discipline of terrorism studies is at a point of crisis. It has not yet made the transition to a more holistic understanding of the roots of political violence. This is so because the understanding and definition of terrorism is contained within a state discourse. This is the conventional or the ‘orthodox theory’ of terrorism and is based on the legitimacy/illegitimacy dualism that constructs non-state violence as terrorist while state violence is deemed to be legitimate. Most of the sates affected by terrorism are, by and large, in a mood of denial with respect to unearthing the causes leading to terrorism and making course corrections. It is mainly so because such a change of direction often calls for wide ranging domestic reforms, necessitating redistribution of political power and reconfiguring the existing governance order.

Due to the underlying fear of upsetting the status quo, the governing elites do not feel comfortable enough to engage in a roots debate to discover the causes of terrorism, as this may, in some cases, legitimise non-state violence. This causes difficulty not just for approaching and dealing with terrorism for the symptomatic management of violence, but also for enacting long-term solutions that attempt to address the underlying causes. More importantly, it is also becoming a problem for understanding the manifestation of ‘new terrorism’, which like new war does not necessarily fit the state-centric parameters employed in the past.

In contrast to the rational political actions of orthodox terrorism, ‘new terrorism’, according to Walter Laqueur, is deadly violence perpetrated by unidentified amorphous non-state groups, who often bear no relation to their country of origin[iii] and who may or may not claim responsibility for their actions. They intend to kill as many people as possible, predominantly non-combatants and their blind lethal violence is typified by hate, aggression and anger. Those involved in these types of violence are becoming increasingly hard to separate. Therefore, if the symptoms of these types of violence are becoming increasingly similar then, perhaps, the root causes might also share a common ground. While the study of conflict has moved on and engaged with alternative methods of understanding war and conflict, the orthodox terrorism understanding is still constrained by the relative moral legitimacy debate. This definitional inadequacy hinders any engagement in a ‘roots of terrorism’ debate.

Countering terrorism requires a comprehensive synergy oozing approach, combining the efforts of society, state and international structures. Its pre-requisites are ‘just peace’ based on equitable fair play in the resolution of international conflicts, a concerted effort for ethno-sectarian harmony and improving the quality of life of lower stratum of societies—all easier said than done in the prevailing geo-strategic and politico-economic settings.    

Understanding Terrorism: Theoretical Conception

In 1972 the United Nations Secretariat produced a document on the causes of international terrorism; it suggested that the roots of terrorism were in ‘genuine frustration and despair with national and international policy in the political, economic and social situations’[iv]. The concept of grievance is also a reoccurring theme revolving around hunger, misery, disease, injustice, humiliation, etc.[v] Then there is the abstract perception of being aggrieved between two psychological dimensions: hope and desperation: hope for sufficiently favourable political change and desperation arising out of perceptions like political marginalization and socio-economic decline.[vi] This suggests that terrorism manifests in decaying and unstable social systems.[vii] Such reflection is also found in the debates of the UN General Assembly in early October 2001, when it met three weeks after the 9/11 attacks to discuss these terrorist attacks. A number of member States urged the international community to look at the root causes of terrorism.[viii] Some speakers also explained what their governments perceived to be the root causes or breeding grounds of terrorism.

Table : Sampling of Root Causes of Terrorism identified by Member States in UN General Assembly after 9/11[ix]

  • Communities struck by poverty, disease, illiteracy, bitter hopelessness (Armenia)
  • Social inequality, marginalization and exclusion (Benin)
  • Political oppression, extreme poverty and the violation of basic rights (Costa Rica)
  • Injustices, misery, starvation, drugs, exclusion, prejudices, despair for lack of perspectives (Dominican Republic)
  • Inequality and oppression (Finland)
  • Oppression of peoples in several parts of the world, particularly in Palestine (Malaysia)
  • Alienation of the young in situations of economic deprivation and political tension and uncertainty, sense of injustice and lack of hope (New Zealand)
  • Rejection of the West with all its cultural dimensions (Palestine)
  • Hunger, poverty, deprivation, fear, despair, absence of sense of belonging to the human family (Namibia)
  • Situations which lead to misery, exclusion, reclusion, the injustices which lead to growing frustration, desperation and exasperation (Senegal)

Causes of terrorism are commonly seen as political or socio-economic grievances expressed by groups or communities. Then, there are structures that trigger the disadvantaged in ‘blocked societies’ to strive to reclaim their perceived but denied rights[x]. Former US president Bill Clinton once suggested, ‘terrorism is the last desperate pitch of the humiliated and hungry and is a raw message of those neither [being] heard nor understood’.[xi]

Efforts by individuals and or groups to reform existing political systems (perceived as oppressive) through acts of violence is a common driving force for terrorism. In most of these cases those pursuing this approach are of the conviction that their objectives are no longer achievable through non-violent struggle. Individuals, groups, communities and or societies engaged in terrorism often refer to concepts such as (in) equality, (dis) order, discrimination, exploitation, (dis) enfranchisement, (in) justice, marginalization etc. Such cause and effect arguments tend to lead towards a conclusion that the roots of terrorism are in social conflict. This may, however, be only partially correct. To grasp the matter in its totality, “Terrorism” needs to be disassociated from the relative — state versus non-state actors— legitimacy debate and recognised as a form of conflict.

With this perspective in place, terrorism yields two main components; of these, one is functional or tangible — lethal violence;  and the other is articulation of intent which may be abstract or at variance with practiced violence — political agenda. Therefore, terrorism is an expression of a particular type of lethal violence, it can be defined methodologically as: a ‘special method’ of armed struggle or as a ‘weapons-system’ that incorporates recognised techniques such as assassination and bombing, directed against people or property, both combatants and innocents.[xii] An act, or concept, of terrorism stands apart from similar facades of violence by the association of the former with a political motive. Going by this understanding, violence without a political agenda fits in the category of crime and does not qualify to be called terrorism in contemporary usage. Terrorism is essentially political, both in intent and act. Political motive is the primary instigator of some violent interaction by or against the established power centres to alter the pattern of prevalent form of relative power distribution—politico-economical. So in its most basic manifestation, terrorism can be seen as an act of lethal violence for the pursuit of a political agenda.[xiii]

This approach provides a level of clarity for investigating the reason(s) or root cause(s) for terrorism while keeping away from the paradoxes thrown-up by the complexities of moral legitimacy debate because the method of violence used by terrorists are, by and large, outlawed by the state and international actors. This is done through domestic legislations at state level; and through scores of international instruments at regional and global levels. It implies that the term terrorism exists, as a label for ‘illegal’ war or conflict conducted by a non-state actor(s),[xiv] while ignoring the violence committed by the state(s) against non state actor(s). These laws and conventions focus not on why the violence might be occurring but seek to establish the type or facade of violence and sets procedures to counter it. This approach has limited the study of terrorism to dealing with formation, construction and operation of terrorist groups, alongside the type of weapons, tactics and operational methods employed by them.

In an oversimplification, terrorism has also been defined as ‘violence against civilians’.[xv] Ironically, this notion has become the central basis for most terrorism and counter-terrorism related studies. It also represents the core of terrorism literature[xvi] and relates directly to the formation of governmental policy on intelligence and security and feeds the formulation and execution of anti-terrorist and counter-terrorism policies and strategies.  A widely accepted notion suggests: ‘[T]errorism is a doctrine about the efficacy of unexpected and life threatening violence for political change and a strategy of political action which embodies that doctrine.’[xvii]

Theories of Terrorism

Orthodox Theory.  This theory explains the act of terrorism from the perspectives of instigator and recipient, be it a terrorist group against a state or vice versa. It concentrates mainly on acts of terrorism as violence against the established authority or state, but not as adequately by the state.  Terrorism is viewed as violence generated by conflict over contention for political legitimacy. As states believe they have an undisputable monopoly over political authority, including committal of violence, therefore, they summarily dismiss any challenge to their authority— as illegitimate. On the other hand, terrorist groups while challenging the political authority of the state consider themselves and their cause legitimate and view the state as illegitimate. Due to dominance of state power, the ‘relative legitimacy’ explanation has become widely accepted dogma; whereby, terrorism has become a derogatory term adopted by actors (both state and non-state) to make a relative moral justification of their respective claim to moral legitimacy and condemnation of opponents.[xviii]

States term violent groups as terrorists, not merely due to their use of lethal violence to attempt to attain political goals but because they view their challenge as illegitimate. Likewise, non-state practitioners of political violence label states as terrorist not because of lethal state violence to exert their authority, but because they see its political authority, and hence, the ensuing violence as illegitimate. This catch 22 is well articulated in the adage: ‘one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist’. It is interesting to see this dilemma in two competing definitions of terrorism one each from a state and non-state entity.  First, the US Department of Defence (DoD) defines terrorism as: ‘unlawful use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce and intimidate governments to accept political, religious or ideological objectives’[xix];  and second, by Sheikh Fadlallah, spiritual leader of Hizbollah suggesting that terrorism is ‘fighting with special means against aggressor nations in religious and lawful warfare against world imperial powers’.[xx]

The origin of this legal and moral legitimacy debate can be traced back to the Western understanding of liberal democracy. In this context, the ‘terrorist’ label has been used to describe and politically condemn groups who use terrorist methods in a liberal democracy, where opportunities exist to articulate grievances through non-violent political and legal processes.[xxi] While the existence of democracy promotes the state’s claim in the moral argument, it does not necessarily change the relative understanding of legitimacy held by the other actor(s). Therefore, a prerequisite for the application of an orthodox definition of terrorism is the assumption that the employer of the definition is liberal and democratic and therefore has legitimate grounds to judge and morally condemn the user of political violence. Notwithstanding, numerous incidents of terrorism occur outside liberal democratic states and at times these are for non-democratic objectives; therefore formulation of a universally acceptable definition is in order.

Moreover, a minority within a liberal democratic setup having a small representation may be denied all participation except voting, and is consequently outvoted, presents another paradox because in the practical sense, it loses the ability in obtaining a peaceful redress of its grievances.[xxii]  However, the state as the more powerful actor can enforce its legitimacy with state violence. The orthodox definition of terrorism is employed in this framework to legitimize violence, even though legitimacy is embedded in the power of the state.

This produces a relative understanding of terrorism that is locked into an endlessly cyclical moral debate between relative perceptions of right and wrong. For example, when terrorism is defined as, ‘the systematic use of coercive intimidation for political ends and is used to create and exploit a climate of fear among a wider target group than the victims to publicize a cause and to coerce a target to acceding to the terrorists’ aims,’[xxiii] then the state can resort to the orthodox terrorist theory and declare such terrorist attacks as provocative and symbolic acts to intimidate and terrorize, with an intent to undermine the legitimately established political order. Going by this, the state is able to legitimately respond with forces under state control, namely the legal and military machinery. By the same token, violence yielding groups can use the terrorism theory to suggest that the state is attempting to intimidate them by using state violence against their symbolic targets, such as right to self-determination, group leaders, training camps, etc. This logic allows the group to respond with whatever means of violence is available, hence causing a cycle of violence that can be characterized by a protracted and intractable conflict over legitimacy. The cycle of terrorist violence and ensuing recrimination is a common characteristic in so-called terrorist conflicts and is clearly illustrated in the Palestine and Kashmir conflicts. Israelis and Indians view Palestinian and Kashmiri attacks as terrorism and respond with military violence, while the Palestinians and Kashmiris view this act of the respective states as terrorism and respond with violence. Both claim legitimacy of action, both view the other as terrorists. Despite acceptance of Palestine and Kashmir as disputed and contested territories by the UN, narratives by Israel and India find greater acceptance at international forums; thus causing more and more frustration amongst the Kashmiri and Palestinian people.

Connected to the problem of legitimacy is the relative understanding of force and violence. Violence is the opposite of legitimate force, and is perceived as the illegitimate use or threatened use of coercion. This argument suggests that illegitimate violence is used in terrorism and legitimate violence is force used against it. This tends to obscure the causes of terrorists because both sides claim moral legitimacy, and this increasingly polarizes and stonewalls the competing actors within their own self-righteous claims.

The orthodox definition of terrorism is manipulated to serve political ends. In this process, a number of groups and individuals are labeled, relative to state legitimacy, as terrorists. As a result they are outlawed and tackled with state measures, such as the rule of law and military force. However, in reaction to changing political situations, some individuals and groups will begin to become legitimized. Group members will be released from prison or return from exile into accepted society, and in some cases become recognized as politicians; for example the initiation of the Doha peace process with the Afghan Taliban and the release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay prison.

Such contradictions of the concept of legitimate violence can also be found in two other important concepts that are associated with the causes of terrorism. These are tyrannicide[xxiv] and the just war theory,[xxv] both clearly illustrate the confusion and disarray that accompanies the legitimacy debate. The problem is that claim to a just cause can be made as a legitimate claim relative from almost any perspective and authorized by any source of perceived political grievance. In addition, the just war theory implies that only one of the belligerents is waging a just war, this results in subjective interpretations. Terrorist actors can cite the concept ‘the end justifies the means’ to validate whatever means they employ.

Terrorism is often associated with violence against non-combatants as a violation of the most basic human right, the right to life. Relative comparison is often made between the considered illegality of groups detonating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against innocent civilians and the perceived legality of military bombardment of non-combatants by the armies of the state. This perhaps implies that in conflict and war there are no innocents; perhaps the boundary between the guilty and innocent is set primarily by the killers’ current view on their own necessity, capability, and the victims accessibility, they tend to kill whom they can kill.[xxvi] Contested legitimacy also questions the nature of war in relation to terrorism because uniformed soldiers, armies and war relate solely to states for whom the declaration and conduct of war is considered their discretion.

Medieval war theories and subsequent conventions on the ‘rules of war’ is an attempt by states to control and restrict the use of warfare. Non-state actors without the military strength of the state, use whatever means of violence they have available in order to conduct what they perceive as a war or conflict. Terrorism however is an endemic problem worldwide and despite the continued use of the orthodox terrorism theory terrorism remains so. This theory is based on a number of common themes; grouped into three areas, functional, symbolic and tactical.

  • Functional Theme. It relates to the conviction that terrorism is intended to ‘provoke a response to further the cause by strategic manipulation’. The intent of terrorists is to undermine the security of the population to demonstrate that the state is unable to provide adequate protection and therefore force them to turn to alternative sources to negotiate a settlement or provide alternative governance.[xxvii]
  • Symbolic Theme.   This type is known to generate the symbolic terrorism of fear and intimidation, by the state, against its own domestic population to ensure political loyalty and compliance to authority[xxviii]. Psychology of fear and dependence on publicity demonstrate the significance of the role of media in propagating the psychological implications of the terrorist message to an intended wider audience.[xxix]
  • Tactical Theme.  The tactical aspect can be understood in two ways. First as a limited means to achieve short-term gain, such as exchange of hijacked hostages for prisoners or a bank robbery to fund arms procurement[xxx]; and secondly as a tactical part of a wider strategic initiative.[xxxi]These approaches suggest that acts of terrorism should be part of the wider struggle for revolution or an initial stage preceding popular revolt. This is ‘the insurgency context of terrorism’[xxxii]; it is employed to understand acts of terrorist violence.

Theories of New terrorism

The understanding of ‘new terrorism’ requires new theories as it certainly brings into question the psychological foundations of the traditional terrorism theory. By applying a critical approach to examining the relationship between the state and terrorism, it is possible to investigate if the roots of terrorism can be located at the state level as well. The state is defined in international law as a permanent population within a distinct territory under the authority of an established government.[xxxiii] Concepts of legitimacy and sovereignty are instrumental in the state-based understanding of the root causes of terrorism.[xxxiv] The state personifies centralized power over a population and that a relationship exists between the governing machinery and the governed population of the state, and the recognition and acceptance of these parameters in and by other sovereign states as well as international governance and regulatory systems.

Terrorism can be located in the conflict generated between the actors in these systems. These can be found internally within the state, between the governing authority and the governed population as conflict over legitimacy, and externally between states as conflict over sovereignty. From the perspective of a neutral understanding of terrorism as lethal political violence, most contentious acts of terrorism are overt acts by states, such as retaliatory and pre-emptive strikes. State terrorism is a method by which states can project military and political power that can be brought into action whenever a state wishes to project its power without accepting responsibility.[xxxv] State sponsored terrorism however, is not just the preserve of powerful states, as all states fear for their security and employ a proactive foreign policy to attain their goals. Other factors that might cause state sponsored terrorism by powerful states include the inherent weakness of terror recipient states to field comparative military strength, religious or ideological causes and endemic socio-economic problems.

  • Internal state terrorism.    As the state is much richer in the means of physical destruction and mechanical repression than terrorist groups, it seems to be part of the natural condition of the state to generate and employ terrorism in order to create and maintain political power. Terrorism can be employed as a potent instrument of the state to subjugate a dissident population to accrue political compliance. Internal state terrorism comprises acts of terrorism by the state, associated with the reign of terror[xxxvi], like indiscreet and disproportionate use of force.  Such actions by the state(s) are, generally, acts of violence designed for gaining and or maintaining political control. This is also termed as ‘regime terror theory’, and it manifests in rule by a typical state through violence and perpetual fear of insecurity amongst the intended victims of such terror.[xxxvii] Rousseau identified the Social Contract’ as the implied relationship between the government and the citizen; it permits for the monopoly on the use of violence by the state, in return for the protection of the rights of the individual citizen[xxxviii]. Such terror is aimed at ‘containment’ and is a consequence of maintaining social peace and personal safety. States employ a category of assets—law enforcement agencies like army and police— and material incentives to impose order and reinforce legitimacy. This, at times, leads to ‘abuse of power by governments’. However, given the legitimacy enjoyed by the established states, this could very well be called ‘legitimate exercise of political power’. This concept has been termed the ‘discipline of terrorology’ or ‘the science of terrorism’. This theory suggests the ability of the state to employ terrorism, both directly and indirectly. Chomsky identifies the existence of ‘image’ and ‘reality’ concepts of terrorism. ‘Reality’ he argues, is ‘literal terrorism’, which is an identifiable and real threat to the state. ‘Image’ however, is ‘propagandist terrorism’, which he sees as the ‘construction of the concept as a weapon to be exploited in the service of systems of power’.[xxxix]  These ideas relating to internal state terrorism can also be seen as counter or anti-terrorism, radiating advantages as well as disadvantages. Thus the domestic or internal threat of terrorism can strengthen the modern state to the detriment of the rule of law and security of civil liberties. After 9/11, a number of states have introduced national emergency anti-terrorism laws that blatantly contravene individual human rights. Internal state terrorism can be regarded as endemic to the existence of the modern state. This implies that the relationship between political power and governance makes terrorism practically synonymous with the institution of the state.
  • External State Terrorism: External state terrorism is an act of terrorism sanctioned by states outside its own territories. It is also referred to as state-sponsored, state directed, or proxy terrorism. From this perspective, state terrorism is grossly more destructive and indiscriminate than small-group violence. Thus the state can be regarded as a root cause of terrorism due to perceived utility of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy. States can perpetrate acts of terrorism outside of their borders to enact what can be termed low-cost, low-risk, high yield foreign policy. State’s terrorist behavior may be divided into three types; coercive diplomacy, covert behaviour and surrogate terrorism[xl]. This typology can be enhanced by adding direct military action. This can take the form of acts of overt violence by one state carried out in another state, or as covert violence by agents of the perpetrator state (or ‘third party’ ‘proxy’ state) — in the form of direct military action or secret financial, technical or logistical support. Covert state terrorism is often practiced because it avoids direct military confrontation, especially if the states concerned have nuclear weapons. During the Cold War era, a large number of states were available to willingly play proxy on behalf of one super power against the other; these days the proxy role has largely been taken over by non-state actors.
  • Network Theory.  During the cold war era, Clare Sterling produced a thesis entitled ‘the network theory’, in which she argued that the cause of world terrorism was state-sponsorship of terrorism by the Soviet Union.[xli] Though largely discredited in its historic perspective, it has now re-emegred as an Islamist terrorist network theory.[xlii] The newer version is also inherently flawed because it attributes terrorism to a particular community or ideology, whereas literature on terrorism indicates otherwise.
  • Strategic Choice Theory:  This theory is a representation of the perpetrator of violence as a rational actor, who has calculated the implications and made a rational choice among alternatives as part of strategic reasoning. This suggests that acts of terrorist violence, whilst appearing to be indiscriminate and random, and the behaviour of mad and crazed individuals, are in fact tactical parts of a carefully planned and calculated strategy to influence decision-making and effect political change.[xliii]
  • Radical Terrorism Theory: This theory is occasionally apparent in literature and explains terrorism largely from the perspective of the terrorist. It is a justification for violence and a defence of the root causes that exist predominantly in established structures.
  • Moderate Terrorism theory: This is also a limited approach in terrorism studies dealing with a roots debate. It attempts to explain and understand the roots of terrorism in relation to socio-economic, structural and political causes.
  • Insurgency Perspective: The insurgency approach suggests terrorism as a tactical part of a wider strategic initiative; this is rooted in the theories of revolution and guerrilla warfare by proponents such as Mao Tse-Tung and Carlos Marighela.[xliv] It suggests that acts of terrorism should be part of wider struggle for revolution or an initial stage preceding a popular revolt.[xlv]

Emerging trends brought to light by terrorism theorists are becoming increasingly apparent and question the very foundation of the orthodox theory. Hoffman’s term ‘new terrorism’ is characterized by less comprehensible motives and an unwillingness to claim or credit responsibility. He also highlights the increased lethality of acts of terrorism.[xlvi] Wilkinson calls this trend ‘mass terror’ and links it to the large number of people killed in ethnic conflict.[xlvii] Walter Lacquer in The New Terrorism reiterates these themes and adds that new terrorism is motivated by hate, blind violence and aggression and therefore questions the role of ideology in terrorism.[xlviii] This argument causes difficulty in supporting the functional understanding of terrorism, which is further compounded by the actions of millennial groups, or extremist sects whose sole purpose is to kill and therefore lack any obvious political objective;[xlix] for example, the Japanese religious cult, Aum Shrinrikyo that released Sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system, killing a dozen people and injuring 5,000. This brings into question whether they actually constitute a terrorist organization. Such themes are increasingly apparent in the contemporary literature on terrorism theory, especially in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the implications of the high death toll. It is also particularly relevant in the debate over the terrorists’ use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).[l]

What, How, and Why of Terrorism

Rather than focusing on why it actually occurs, the major chunk of research on terrorism is preoccupied with explaining what actually constitutes terrorism, how it occurs and how to counter it. Thus focus has shifted to identification of the type of violence employed. This, in turn, has changed the study of terrorism into the study of methods seeking to understand not why violence might be occurring but instead trying to determine what type of violence is it and how can it be countered; this is clearly illustrated by the line of action adopted by the United Nations (UN) Conventions on terrorism.[li] As a result, terrorism has become an academic analysis of the mechanics of the actual violence, dealing with research ranging from the formation, construction and operation of terrorist groups, to the type of weapons, tactics and operational methods employed.[lii] This represents the core of terrorism literature.[liii] This in turn leads to formation of flawed governmental policies on intelligence and security matters which contribute towards formulation and execution of ineffective anti-terrorist and counter-terrorism strategies. This is not helped even by growing political pressure to establish an accepted single definition of terrorism that can be used to institute a general scientific theory of terrorism enshrined in law, the purpose of which is to institute a common governmental and international basis with which to approach, and deal with terrorism.[liv]

Institutional studies of terrorism are also limited to in-depth methodological reviews of the techniques and tactics of varying types of terrorist entities. These are helpful in understanding and countering terrorist groups in relation to methods of response and policy formation, however, they are often of little use in comprehending why the groups are engaging in violence. In line with a rethinking of conflict, rethinking of terrorism is also in order to provide alternative approaches that can deal with the root causes to resolve and end terrorism in its various endemic forms. Inquiry regarding reasons for terrorism is further complicated by obsessive approaches within terrorism studies for the methodology of violence.

Causes of Terrorism at State level.  Study of these causes produce a perspective of terrorism inextricably rooted within the modern state and realist state system. The manifestation of terrorism therefore can be attributed directly to the existence of the state, ‘as an instrument of internal repression and control, and as a weapon of external aggression and subjugation’.[lv] This perspective is linked closely to the orthodox terrorism theory and employs a positivist approach to understanding acts of terrorism as illegal and illegitimate violence against the state.

However, because of the state-centric orientation radiated by the state level perspective, a serious flaw exists in a holistic understanding of terrorism. The state level approach only sees terrorism as originating from established states and therefore does not recognize the importance of the non-state actor. Acts of terrorism against states are perceived as instigated only from other states. For example, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is understood at the state level as a conflict between the established Arab states in the region. The Palestinians, as a non-state group, are viewed as either the proxy agents of the Arab states or as an Israeli internal security issue. They are certainly not seen as politically and socio-economically marginalized or oppressed actors in their own right. Furthermore, the cause of the September 11th attacks in New York were seen as state sponsored terrorism emanating from the Taliban in Afghanistan. There is an obvious gap in the understanding of terrorism through this prism, one that needs to be addressed by employing other, alternative levels of analysis.

State and Non-State Actors.        To plug the gaps in the state approach to terrorism it is useful to examine how terrorism is understood, at the non-state level. Roots of terrorism can also be investigated by focusing attention on the role of the non-state actors as a cause of terrorism by examining the nature of the terrorist challenge to the state and why it occurs. Bowyer Bell calls this concept ‘the dream’, and suggests that it is apparent in all actors seeking political change.[lvi] The opposition and resistance that the institution of the established state produces to this dream is a major determinant of the nature of the armed struggle and of terrorism. Opposition to the state as the accepted source of political power can be recognized in two principal forms:-.

  • This form of violence intends to instigate change and reform of the existing system.
  • This form of violence seeks the complete destruction of the state and the established authority.

Terrorism therefore exists ‘in the state and non-state context between the forces of order and change, power holders and challengers; and forces of social control and dissent’.[lvii] It is important to investigate why the state as an institution is such a potent source for political violence. Terrorism against the state is the most commonly accepted and widely understood cause of terrorism. This is primarily because the state is considered to be the accepted and established source of political power, in the form of a national and internationally recognized ruling authority. The state is, therefore, the obvious and natural target for those seeking political influence. Hence, the state and and the state’s defence machinery is orientated to oppose any form of political change, especially the violent ones, attempting to affect the status quo with respect to the state monopoly of political and socio-economic control. The roots of terrorism exist in this dynamic, which manifest into movements for sub-national liberation or socio-economic reform that harbour a political claim to some or all of the power of the state.

To explain the roots of terrorism it is crucial to investigate the root causes of terrorism challenges by various groups against the established authority of the state. This is particularly important when some states employ a form of parliamentary democracy or at least provide the facility to potentially obtain political power through peaceful means. Paradoxically, whilst the French Revolution is held in the highest traditions of Western thought as the example of gaining freedom and liberty, it was actually achieved and consolidated by the use of terrorism. For this reason terrorism is located in modern Western political thought originating from the French Revolution. As ‘[I]t led men to believe that it was within their power to remake society from top to bottom’.[lviii] Thus it is no longer necessary to accept without question the ruling elite or established political and indeed socio-economic situation. Liberal political change could be facilitated by violence.

Such ideas also helped generate the concepts behind rights and freedoms. Individuals and nations developed an understanding and belief in ‘natural rights’ especially for the creation of a representative state. These beliefs, enshrined in the concept of the state, have been instrumental in the cause of terrorism since the French Revolution. They reoccur in the concepts of European nationalism, ethno-nationalism, self-determination and de-colonization.[lix] These types of asymmetric power challenges from non-state actors are widely regarded as some of the main causes of terrorism, especially in the orthodox terrorism theory. The irony is, however, that these expressions of violence are enshrined in the Western value systems of freedom and liberty that have helped in establishing the modern State in the first instance—especially the Westphalian model of a typical Nation State.

Another cause of terrorism is the arbitrary nature of the state itself. States, especially liberal democratic ones, are arguably created as representative, yet it is very unlikely that they may represent the entire population. Political grievances are therefore very likely to materialize amongst the non-majority groups. Because of this, terrorism is endemic to the state and it is doubtful if a peaceful settlement to all the demands of all terrorists could ever be met.[lx]  States are also territorially arbitrary. Their borders do not necessarily reflect social, ethnic or religious divisions. States are a ‘model’ and often reflect the will of the majority therefore marginalising minorities into terrorism. States are also artificially created political ‘products’, characterized by a population who may be socially, economically, ethnically and religiously diverse but who are forced together into a bounded territory and governed by an established authority under an enforced political system. Whilst this may be acceptable to some, especially the ethnic majority or the ruling elite, the nature of the relationship of violence between the governing and the governed and the diversity of people in a state might suggest otherwise. It is an interesting argument to suggest that terrorism exists in the fragmentation of a state and not its forcible creation. Therefore, terrorism should be seen as occurring in the ‘framework of the progressive decline of the nation-state and the disintegration of communities into smaller groups, sub-groups and minorities’.[lxi] Another cause of terrorism by non-state groups is the reaction and response of the state itself. The roots of terrorism can therefore be attributed to the repressive nature of the state. Strategy chosen by the state is often instrumental in the development of anti-state terrorism. This may be viewed as ‘radicalization of protest’. This happens to political demonstrations that start peacefully and culminate in to violence, and result in the creation of potential terrorist groups that are driven underground by harsh state oppression[lxii]. An example of such socialization of violence or the inheritance of violence from the state by non-state groups is provided by Sayyid Fedlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah: ‘the extraordinary and unconventional methods of waging war are necessary to redress the imbalance of power and as an obligation for self-defence’.[lxiii]

The state can exist as an oppressive monolith that obstructs and frustrates the political and social goals of its weaker opponents. The state is also the ultimate symbol against which violence created and cumulated by deprivation driven frustration and anger is often vented. It is also an insensitive and hostile leviathan that dispenses its own brand of arbitrary violence. It is interesting to note, however, that groups often perpetrate terrorism against the state with the intention of forming their own version of a state, in which they hope to realize their own political power and accomplish their own particular goals. This cyclic pattern continually propagates terrorism, as the ‘new incumbent state’ dispenses its own violence whilst being the recipient of violence from new opposition groups. Prior to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, Menachem Begin, representing the Irgun, (a terrorist group opposing British rule in Palestine) proclaimed that ‘a fighting underground is a veritable state in miniature: a state at war.’[lxiv] This statement could now equally apply to the Palestinians.

Causes of terrorism

Causes leading to extremism and terrorism include but, are not limed to: ideological/cultural inclinations, distortions and or inhibitions; perception of political deprivation; lack of an even playing ground for socio-economic development; external intervention, etc. In the regional context, common factors leading to extremist inclinations may be: poverty and exploitation; proneness to natural calamities; inter-state tensions and non-resolution of core disputes; hegemonic policies and external intervention; threat to sovereignty of smaller nation states, etc. Causes of terrorism can be divided into ‘preconditions and precipitants’. Preconditions are factors that set the stage such as modernization, urbanization, etc; and the development of neo-social habits and disowning of historical traditions. Precipitants are specific events that trigger a violent reaction.[lxv] This build-up evolves into ‘a protest cycle’ in which claims or demands gather momentum within specific social groups and can radicalize into violence unless addressed by the government.[lxvi] This situation breeds ‘a crisis of confidence’.

Protest movements begin, not necessarily because of fundamental faults in the system but because of the rulers misleading behaviour and misguided policies[lxvii]. Causes of terrorism are anchored in social conflict. Groups and communities engaged in terrorism often refer to concepts such as order and justice. They demand the redress of the perceived social imbalance. Some interesting concepts emerge from this line of argument:

  • Relative Deprivation. This suggests that the perceived discrepancy between what the group expects to have and what they actually have is a source of violence[lxviii].
  • Functionalism.  This indicates that terrorism has a positive social function to ease social tension by creating and maintaining necessary social change[lxix].
  • Change theory.  It sees terrorism as a purposeful safety valve for dangerous social pressures and helps governments make timely reforms in order to avoid a potentially violent situation from worsening. This ultimately implies that terrorism has a purpose, and the means of violence, no matter how abhorrent, it leads to an important end, which justifies it.
  • Armed struggle is a means to change history and not an end in itself. This theme suggests that revolt is a spontaneous response to injustice and a chance to achieve change without giving up personal and collective freedom. By the same token, rebellion ‘is the basis for human progression and freedom’[lxx]. The existence in society of ideas of grievances, demands and problems that can act as potential and indeed actual causes of terrorism, are identified as ‘corrigible terrorism’. This is terrorism in which the causes, such as desires and grievances can be addressed[lxxi].

 Structural causes of terrorism

Terrorism cannot be adequately explained without placing it in its particular social, political and economic context. Structural causes of terrorism can manifest themselves in many forms. These range from material concepts such as global economic disparity, territorial disputes and colonialism, to wider delicate concepts such as subjugation and oppression. Terrorists, according Rubenstein, are normal people driven to extremes by situations;[lxxii] ‘rarely do happy and contented people throw bombs’. Perception of relative deprivation is endemic and unsolvable. Structural causes are deeply rooted in ideology, culture and socialisation.[lxxiii]  The contextual approach to understanding terrorism relates directly to the relationship between the belligerents and the history and culture of violence within the region. A further structural area for examination is systemic. This relates to the nature of the conflict system that is created by the conflict behavior of the actors, and is linked directly to the generation of systemic terrorism, which is due to the relationship between the actor and the created structure. Situational terrorism relates to the structure formed by the conflict situation and the contradiction caused by the incompatibility between actors and their desired objective.  The environment of terrorism relates to socialization or the interaction of the actor with the perceived socio-economic reality and can be seen as grounds for the generation of socio-economic terrorism. Ideology, culture, socialization and single issues present the structures or anchors for pegging terrorist activities.

  • Ideology.   Classic examples of terrorism ideology are provided by Mao, Guevara, and Marighella and were directed primarily at conducting revolutionary and guerrilla warfare. These ideas were widely adopted by terrorist groups. However, perhaps the most influential ideology for terrorism is Marxism, this relates to employing violence to break the structural constraints of political, social and or economic oppression. Marxism has been a common feature in the ideology of many terrorist groups to achieve political goals. Recurring movements of Palestinian Intifada and Kashmiri Sangbaz (Stone throwers)  can be seen as a reaction to the structural oppression by occupation states—Israel and India. Marxism is an antidote to the illegitimacy of violence of orthodox terrorism theory. It serves to legitimize violence against oppression. Resistance, struggle, oppression and freedom are words in the common lexicon for both Marxism and terrorism.  Franz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth saw violence as an omnipresent structural force[lxxiv]; and Jean-Paul Sartre in Critique de la raison dialectique saw violence as the cohesion to all social and political relationships and advocated violence as self-expression and ultimately an end in itself.[lxxv]
  • Culture.   Culture is an ‘arena or ecosystem in which the armed struggle is generated and comprises of a combination of history, culture, vulnerability and possibility’.[lxxvi] Violence can be enshrined in the history and culture of society and is apparent from the level of occurrence or propensity for violence in a society, community or region in both historical and contemporary events. A culture of violence can be propagated and prolonged by the continuity provided by historical and cultural memory.[lxxvii] Societies can be sensitized to accept different levels of violence depending on their history and experience. Terrorism is not necessarily a representative trait of a society as a whole; more often it suggests the existence of a ‘sub-culture of violence’. This is terrorism instigated by different social groups who by definition and action consider themselves outside the frame work of an accepted society.
  • Socialization.   Recurring socialization themes in the causes of terrorism are poverty, low standards of living and limited socio-economic opportunity, violence, unemployment and unfulfilled political promises. Terrorism is often seen as a product of social dislocation and a symptom of political instability, class struggle and economic disparity. Social and political trends are also seen ahead of religious reasons to explain the root causes of violence. However, it is important to point out that the socio-economic structure is not always seen as a cause of terrorism. Socialization issues exist as a structure that is not initially apparent and are significantly more deep-rooted and underlying in society. As a result the problems produced by it are not necessarily solvable by quick-fix solutions that deal only with the symptoms. Issues such as divided societies, long-standing protracted conflict and instutionalised discrimination and inequality provide the structural context, which can be liked to specific events that provoke despair, rage and vengeance.[lxxviii] This implies that terrorism can be generated by a self-perpetuating dynamic created by socialisation between long-term structural issues. However, difficult socio-economic environments are not automatically synonymous with the generation of terrorism.
  • Single-issue.  Terrorism can be generated by causes that are not subject to a roots debate. They are related directly to single issues—specific and localized individual or small group problems. A single-issue terrorism can be defined as violence committed with the desire to change a specific policy or practice within a target society.[lxxix] These might include employment or financial disputes, racial issues, socio-religious matters, with a localized political agenda. It is possible to identify the causes of this type of terrorism, it is perhaps not so easy to solve it; at times, their demands are too irredeemable to offer a satisfying workable solution.[lxxx] Another cause of single-issue terrorism is initiated by organized crime and drugs trade. The link between political violence and crime and drugs trade as a cause of terrorism is more to do with greed than political agendas. However, finances generated by drugs and organized crime are a substantial source of funding for terrorist networks.

Individual focused Causes of Terrorism

Ultimately it is the individual who carries out a lethal act by detonating a bomb or pulling a trigger. The individual level of analysis is also vital in examining the place of the individual in the generation of acts of terrorism. However, it is a framework that assumes that the individual terrorist is a rational actor who acts in accordance with an ideologically created psychological mindset that is constructed from a reasoned and cognitive understanding of the political situation. Individuals who commit acts of terrorism can equally be the unwitting violent end product of a chain of events caused by complicated political relationships and socio-economic situations of which they are completely unaware.[lxxxi] It is important to understand the role of the individual in the causes of terrorism by considering the influence of personal leanings, religion and psychology.

  • Personal leanings. These provide the individual terrorist with the cognitive reasoning with which to justify the use of violence. Any political ideology held by an individual can lead potentially to violence. The ideological motivation of the individual terrorist has been compared to that of a ‘dream’. The rebel ‘dream’ is both the source and determinant of the armed struggle and is pursued by the faithful who believe that the only way of transforming it into reality is through the use of violence.[lxxxii] Terrorism is seemingly a product of thinking people and is produced by a ‘social and moral crisis in the intelligentsia’.[lxxxiii] Hence the terrorist is fundamentally a violent intellectual prepared to use force in the attainment of goals.[lxxxiv]
  • Religion.  Religion is the most widely assumed cause of terrorism and it is often assumed as the major driving force behind international terrorism; what really requires investigation is the actual role of religion as a cause of terrorism. Religion can be seen as an ideology that provides the reality, legitimacy and justification for terrorist acts. Religion, using this argument, can be regarded as just another political ideology, which is vying with other secular ideologies for political power. Religion is also inextricably linked to the identity and culture of a socio-economic community. Religious terrorism has arisen out of disillusionment with secular ideology. Religious terrorism can also arise as a direct political challenge to the established political authority, in a similar way to secular terrorism. It can be a socio-economic and cultural counter reaction to perceived threats to the religious cultural fabric or it can exist simply as an expression of religious principles. The ambiguity of the role of religion as a cause of terrorism centers on whether religion is a motivation for its own sake, as a purely theological inspiration, or if it is overtly a political discourse. Identifying the roots of religious terrorism is a very complicated matter and can at best be misleading. Some leading arguments tend to portray that terrorism is synonymous with religion and is also used to attempt to enforce the propagation of the religion. However, others argue that it occurs for various other deeper underlying socio-economic, nationalistic or ethnic reasons, which are often obscured by the influence of religion and politics in a similar way as the effect of the Cold War on the understanding of the cause of regional conflict. Rubenstein argues that religious terrorists are fundamentally nationalist, he suggests, ‘Religious fundamentalism expresses widely felt longings for national redemption, national power, self-purification and revenge’.[lxxxv]
  • Psychology.   Arguably, the most important causes of terrorism are in the mind of the individual and the creation and existence of a subjective reality. Although acts of terrorism can be committed for any number of different reasons it is within the particular mindset and subjective reality of the individual that acts of terrorism occur. This perceived reality is a vision created and reinforced by faith in the terrorist’s goal. It is a shared reality as all rebels assume their truth is the ‘universal truth’. This mindset produces an arrogant intractable belief in the group and results in killing for a ‘world’ others cannot see.[lxxxvi] Within group dynamics, terrorism is generated by like-minded individuals who join together to envision a subjective ‘world’, made under the framework of their own ideals, and to be run by their own rules. This ultimately serves to justify their actions.  Internal group dynamics can also produce an increasingly intractable situation where the only action is violence.

Evolving Operational Dynamics of Terrorism

In the functional and operational context, terrorism has increasingly become a trans-national and trans-regional phenomenon. The regional dimension of terrorism embodies complex dynamics and complicated networking systems. Despite an unprecedented international effort to militarily subdue terrorism, no lasting solution is insight. Likewise, scores of flawed studies and half-baked programmes have only been able to address the issue of extremism at a basic level. Hence, radicalized societies/groups continue to churn-out militant extremists in scores.

Traditional trans-national and trans-regional ethno-sectarian fault lines are the readily available vehicles for outward transmission of extremist sentiment to attract a wider support base, as well as for inward flow of logistical support to troubled spots to influence tactical level outcomes. Highly skilled small groups and trans-national sleeper cells are increasingly gaining prominence.

As of now, terrorism functions in three distinct tiers: global, regional and local. The global or strategic tier operates at an international level for enacting forced regime changes; the regional or operational tier carries out disruptive and destructive campaigns to soften the states, and then knowingly or unknowingly delivers these fragile states to the strategic tier for the final push. At a local/ tactical level, isolated pockets of ethno-sectarian groups keep the pot boiling through attrition campaigns against rival groups. Even mammoth military interventions, in the name of countering terrorism, have only led to a messier environment.

Operationally, terrorism is a global menace. There is a close connection between international terrorism and transnational organized crimes like: illicit human, drug and arms trafficking, money-laundering, illegal movement of potentially deadly materials, ungovernable swaths of territory and unregulated border economies. Despite years of global effort, there is no shortage of funds and logistics for any newly forming terrorist outfit. From these perspectives, some analysts argue that international terrorism is still at a formative rather than culminating stage.

Al Qaeda released a video on September 04, 2014 announcing the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent, saying it is meant to revive jihadist activity in the region. Mr Zawahri, while announcing the raising of “Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent”, said that it had taken more than two years “to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity”. In the video statement, the Qaeda leader vowed to “crush the artificial borders established by the English occupiers to divide the Muslims.” Pakistan’s six top Taliban leaders have announced their allegiance to IS.[lxxxvii] Moreover, after the Eid congregation on October 06, 2014, masked men were seen carrying the flag of IS in Eidgah Maidan in Srinager in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir[lxxxviii].

From another perspective, after seeing the failure of the Al-Qaeda philosophy to enact socio-political changes through a regime change strategy, an alternative philosophy has come to surface under the concept of the Islamic State(IS), this splinter entity of Al-Qaeda aims at physically occupying as much landscape as possible to proclaim statehood and then continue defending and or expanding it. The IS already controls wide swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, including 1/3rd of the total oil wells of Iraq. As of now, the IS is a defacto State. This is a more challenging form of terrorism; because original state’s inability to evict such regimes from their proclaimed territories would mean that the trend to setup such principalities would receive encouragement with a hope that they may sooner or later acquire legitimacy. Some jihadist organizations across the Middle East have began announcing their support for the Islamic State without formally joining the organization; these include Al-Qaeda in Yemen and some groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Such developments also entail the unleashing of proxy wars at a regional level by neighbouring states in support and against emerging principalities.

The Islamic State has its recruiters all over the Western world seeking out new members through social media or known supporters in Canada, Britain, the US and other largely non-Muslim nations. The US State Department has recently said that it knows of “dozens” of US citizens fighting with the IS, the Canadian government claims there are at least 130 Canadians and the British government’s most recent headcount is over 500 Britons.[lxxxix] The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has issued an edict to fight against IS terrorists. Following this, Saudi Arabia has arrested 88 suspected extremists. Recently Iran also arrested Afghan and Pakistani citizens crossing over to join IS fighters. The IS has 30,000 fighters who control an area the size of Britain and rake in about $3 million a day in black-market oil sales.

In recent years, the Al-Qaeda organization witnessed major fundamental transformations, particularly in its organizational structure[xc]. This has contributed towards limiting its mobility and outreach. It has also weakened its ability to conduct terrorist operations against targets across the world. This is attributed to a number of factors: the absence of a charismatic leadership, fragmentation of the organizational network, deteriorating ideological legitimacy, as well as intra-group fragmentation. This has led to armed conflicts with other Jihadist organizations.[xci] The weakening of Al-Qaeda and the limits of their impact has coincided with the rise of other Jihadist organizations, particularly ISIS. However, this does not detract from the ability of Al-Qaeda to reassert its position as the leading Jihadist group, particularly after an international coalition was formed to combat ISIS. The international coalition could delegitimize ISIS’s leadership and reestablish faith among Jihadist supporters in Al-Qaeda and its leadership, particularly Zawahri who has lost a lot of his popularity to Abu Bakr Al-Bughdadi.[xcii]

Since the launch of the international campaign against IS, expectations of defeating the organization were raised but ultimately dashed as the situation on the ground has turned in favor of IS. As the geographical territory under IS control gradually expands, especially in light of the weapons and missiles gained through a confrontation with Iraqi forces in northern Iraq, they are becoming an ever more powerful force[xciii]. With the launch of the military campaign on August 8, 2014, coalition forces have performed hundreds of air strikes. Effectiveness of these strikes is limited. American operations that targeted IS to prevent the capture of Kobani failed to achieve their mission. This city has strategic importance, since controlling Kobani allows IS geographical expansion between Syria and Iraq. In addition to this, one third of the Kurdish population in Iraq is centered in this city. The detail of operations performed in Iraq reveal the success of IS in targeting Iraqi military aircrafts with SAM missile systems; this reveals the volume of development in its military capabilities. United States has refused to send ground troops, and instead focuses on airstrike operations that target the organization’s sources of funding, such as oil refineries, and on providing air support for Kurdish and Iraqi forces in their operations against IS fighters. The international coalition against IS faces many problems. Mechanisms for dealing with the Syrian opposition are still unclear.

The current coalition includes countries that have varying positions towards IS. The United States considers the organization to be a main threat towards its regional interests; while some of the region’s countries see terrorism as the most important threat, with IS being one of many organizations that fit the definition.  Some of the Gulf Council Countries (GCC) see the United States as still abbreviating terrorism in the Sunni context, and accuse them of overlooking how Iran and its agents conduct themselves in Syria and other countries. The Turkish position still raises many questions about the nature of the role Ankara will play in these operations. Potential scenarios of the international coalition against ISIS can be visualized: The first is to maintain the military operations through limited strikes, especially in the light of the advance of ISIS in some areas. The second is regarding the expansion of operations to include land intervention as well, in a way that guarantees the destruction of IS.[xciv] This scenario is least probable, especially with the state of ambiguity around the land operations, as its expiation may increase its cost. The third is regarding the implosion of the IS organization from within, which means divisions within the organization itself, due to the varying nationalities of fighters and various levels of command, or via an event between IS itself and other organizations that declare alliance and support. However, this scenario is unlikely as well, in light of the IS expansion and sympathy of most terrorist organizations that see the international coalition as an attempt to destroy all armed organizations. Therefore, continuation of the campaign in the present shall ensure maintenance of cohesion and operational viability by IS for quite some time.

The development of the military operations against ISIS remains open, and the success of any one of them is tied to the degree of change in US strategy.[xcv]

These developments indicate that at a regional level, terrorism may be more close to formulation stages than to the culmination point and South Asia may become a playing field for the competing narratives of the IS and Al-Qaeda. The main factors factors that have helped reach this state of affairs are as follows:-

  • State Failure: This notion comes from the failure to rule in certain parts of the region. This is seen especially in Yemen, Libya and Syria where the state has failed to provide basic necessities to its civilian population, as well as having large swathes of their territories fall out of their control. For example the control of the militias over Eastern Libya, the southern governorates that fall under Al Qaeda control in Yemen, the regions that fall under the armed opposition’s control in Syria, and also Iraq’s failure to control parts of its territories in Iraq after the rise of IS. The monopoly of force once held by the state has declined in some Arab states due to the unprecedented spread of weapons, terrorist groups, armed militias, ethnic and sectarian armed groups, organized crime groups and others. All of these groups have gained the ability to control swathes of land and wrest them from the state. This has given rise to the notion of an “Armed Street”, and consequently has given way to individuals owning weapons in a manner never before seen by the Arab region, where historically the state held sole control.[xcvi] An arms race has now erupted among individuals seeking to protect smaller affiliations whether familial, tribal or ethnic as a result of rising domestic conflicts, which the state is no longer able to protect its citizens from.[xcvii]
  • Community Conflict: Most communities in the Middle East and North Africa regions have one or another form of ongoing conflict, whether it is racial, ethnic, or otherwise, especially in Iraq and Syria. These communal conflicts come before the loyalties that are first expected to be given to the state. The notion that now precedes the region is that political power is the ultimate guarantor of success. This pattern is clearly visible in conflicts both in Libya and Yemen where militias are slowly taking control. Societal entities have sought to acquire weapons across the Arab world following popular uprisings in 2011.[xcviii] Security forces in several countries in the region could no longer secure public safety and maintain control of its provinces. This rise in domestic conflict, particularly in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen has led to the proliferation of arms.[xcix]

Centrality of Non-state Actors

In the new forms of terrorism, non-state entities are attaining higher and higher significance while effected states are continuously losing their potency. IS has succeeded in dismantling the borders between Iraq and Syria. The scenario of Iraq becoming a jihadist hotbed attracting more radical combatants is likely; especially, if IS successfully expands into neighbouring countries; such as, Jordan. Meanwhile, Lebanon based Hezbollah has thus far been successful in supporting Bashar Al-Assad due to their expertise and capabilities in street war with armed militias, which the regime’s army lacks. In Yemen, the Houthis will continue to influence the situation due to their capability to win battles against Yemeni forces; especially, amid the new regime’s weakness and continued tribal domination over security forces.

Child Warriors

Recent reports point towards a worrisome trend about the rising number of children being exploited in armed conflicts, as they are easily controllable due to their young age and lack of experience. The Paris Principle defines children in armed conflicts as “any child under the age of 18 who is or was recruited or used by armed forces or armed groups in any capacity, including boys and girls who are used as combatants, cooks, porters, spies or for sexual purposes.” Most of the suicide bombers happen to be in their early teens. Although there are no precise statistics on the number of children participating in armed conflicts around the world; a recent report published in January 2014 by the EU commission reveals that around 250,000 soldiers between the ages of 11-18 are involved in armed conflicts across the globe. Recruitment of these “child soldiers” usually takes place through one of two mechanisms:  financial compensation which has become important in light of widespread poverty and low rates of development and growth, or forced recruitment through abductions and trafficking. The number of child soldiers is on the rise.  According to an international report presented to the UN Secretary General in mid-2013; Yemen comes at the forefront of these countries.

Different actors involved in the conflict in Yemen, such as the regular army, tribal militias, the Houthis, organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sharia, are all involved in child recruitment. The use of children has also spread into Syria with the escalation of the conflict. A recent report issued by UNICEF states that Syria has become the most dangerous place for children because of the risk of injury and death. Children at the age of 12 are recruited for support in combat operations, while others are used as guides, guards or arms smugglers. According to many human rights and media reports, the Taliban movement in Pakistan relies heavily on recruiting children.  There is also a rising trend of exploiting children in armed conflicts in Somalia. The recruitment of children or involving them in armed conflicts is a blatant violation of Article (38) of the Convention on the Rights of Children, which prohibits the participation of children   in direct combat operations. This is reiterated in the convention’s optional protocol, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in May 2000, which bans the involvement of children in armed conflicts and any form of compulsory recruitment of children less than 18 years old. This is in accordance with the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 which elaborated on forced recruitment of children in armed conflicts and describes it as the worst form of child labour. The International Criminal Court has also taken a keen interest in child soldiers, whereby the Rome Statue described the recruitment of children less than 15 years old or actively using them in hostile operations as a war crime that would result in the prosecution of those responsible.

Financing of the Terror Industry

Emerging trends for financing terror are summarized below:-

  • Ransom for kidnapping: Activities of terrorist organizations in Libya and southern Yemen have expanded with regards to kidnapping operations to receive ransom money. Al Qaeda in Yemen is considered the most active in kidnapping as a funding tool. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report by the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ransom money collected by terrorists between 2012 and 2014 amounts to $120 million. AlQaeda in Yemen alone collected no less than $20 million out of this total. Kidnapping operations targeting businessmen and officials are common in Libya. They are released in exchange for huge amounts of money, which is used to fund the activities of terrorist organizations. Upon seizing control of wide areas in Iraq, the Islamic State has also resorted to bagging ransom money by kidnapping Yazidis.
  • Controlling oil fields and exporting: Terrorist organisations; particularly the IS, have adopted a strategy of seizing oil fields, and controlling their production, and selling the product. On August 3, 2014, the Islamic State seized control of the Ain Zalah and Batma oil fields in the south of Kirkuk. These two fields produce 30,000 barrels of heavy crude oil daily. Some assessments estimate that the organization now controls 17% of the oil regions. Oil returns constitute a major source of funding for the Islamic State. According to a report published by the Centre for Global Development, the number of oil fields in Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State is 22 with an estimated reserve of 20 billion barrels. According to the Syrian Human Rights Monitor, armed Syrian opposition organizations control approximately 60,000 oil barrels of Syrian production.
  • Robbing and looting banks and private properties:   With the expansion in the scope of chaos and several regions out of the state’s control, terrorists have started relying on robbing banks and financial institutions as a new source of funding. Raiding and robbing banks have spread across Libya, Iraq and Yemen. In Iraq, the Islamic State raided banks of Mosul in June 2014, to acquire around $425 million. Terrorist organizations in Libya have taken a similar approach. The same has been reported in Yemen where Ansar al-Sharia has raided several banks in Al-Qatn, Hadramout, etc.
  • Drug trafficking and securing smuggling routes: Returns from drug trafficking are considered one of the most important sources of funding activities of terrorist organizations who, also, provide secure smuggling routes in exchange for money. For example, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb provides protection for cocaine smugglers from the Sahara to European states in exchange for a fee.
  • Enforcing Jizyah.   Islamic State seized control of large areas in eastern Syria and announced enforcing Sharia in its controlled territories. In late February 2014, the organization enforced Jizyah on Christians in the city of ar-Raqqah in the form of cash equivalent to 17 grams of gold for the rich class and half the amount for the middle class.
  • Human trafficking.   This pattern is common in the case of terrorist organizations in Iraq. According to Iraqi Red Crescent Society Assistant Secretary General Mohammed Khuzai’s statement on August 8, 2014, the Islamic State’s militias have abducted Christian Yazidi women and sold them as concubines and menials in Nineveh markets.
  • Trans-border Economies.  Marginalization of citizens living in trans-border areas is a major factor for booming trans-border economies. These effects are intensified with tribalism as members identify more with their tribes and have more respect for tribal leaders than state institutions. In cases where borders are significantly long, it is difficult to control them and exercise full state sovereignty throughout. Also domestic crises often do not allow the state to exercise its full sovereignty as its security forces are otherwise pre-occupied. There is generally a lack of development and infrastructure in remote areas; particularly, at the borders, which in many cases were former war zones, bound by treaties, or disputed zones. Subsidization by many regional states of energy-related products, allows huge profit margins to be made by smuggling them over the borders.  In some cases, members of state bureaucracy and their connections in the business world financially benefit from informal economic activities. Regional crises create a flow of refugees from one state to another, who often attempt to establish an entire life for themselves and their families in the border areas, thus creating an informal economic system.

Choking Terror financing

The issue of limiting funding resources for terrorists has been the priority for most of the countries. Individually, several governments have amended laws pertaining to money laundering and terrorist funding to combat criminal developments; especially banks are tightening their procedures with regards to transfer operations. Collectively, most of the states have supported UN Security Council resolutions and decisions on funding terrorism the last of which was put forth by Britain and was unanimously issued on August 15, 2014 enforcing sanctions on all those who fund terrorists or provide them with weapons; especially, in Iraq and Syria and; particularly, the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusrah.

Distinct Characteristics of Evolving Terrorist Organizations

Emerging terrorist organizations have a number of distinct characteristics that  distinguish them from the first generation represented by  Al-Qaeda, and the second generations comprised of local versions of Al-Qaeda, which retained  the same organizational structure and  centralized leadership issuing commands, a “Shura”  i.e., advisory council,  a number of  committees, and several operational leaders responsible for areas and cells. The newer organizations, on the other hand, have the following peculiar characteristics:-

  • Flat network:  These organizations include a limited number of individuals bound together through family connections or friendship. They do not have a single ideological or operational leader. Decision-making is a collective process in which all members have almost equal say. These networks are usually formed through online social platforms and are difficult to track.
  • Home-grown: Individuals involved in this type of terrorism are not foreigners or migrants but citizens that grew up in the country in which the organization is active and for some reason adopted a radical orientation towards the state.
  • Unstructured recruitment: These groups are not recruited in a systematic manner through religious schools or Jihadist training camps. Members are attracted through exposure to Jihadist and terrorist blogs and websites, as well as training courses available on the internet on how to carry out a limited terrorist attack.  Most members of these groups belong to the middle class, and do not come from an underprivileged background, neither are they graduates of religious universities, but have  professional backgrounds.
  • Not socially isolated: Unlike conventional terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, whose members were geographically isolated from the influence of the media, urban centres, family and society as a whole, members of these groups interact constantly with the surrounding community. This appears to further deepen their radicalization, and their sense of estrangement and isolation. Exposure to the terrorist ideology creates, over time, a rationalization for their terrorist acts, even against their own state, enhanced by their ability to connect to like-minded individuals through modern means of communication.
  • Lone wolf: The individual acts alone to perform tactical operations, he plans a lone attack after developing his own concept, based on personal feelings of dissatisfaction, as well as  religious, political or social objectives.
  • Micro-cells: It consists of a limited number of individuals bound together by a relationship of trust and a shared ideology based on religious or ethnic identity, or belief in a joint cause.  Decision-making in these cells is a collective process.

Human Rights and Counter Terrorism

The events of 9/11 led to an intensification of measures against terrorism. Numerous new laws and resolutions have been passed to counter terrorism at national and international levels. Some of these measures violate human rights and have been introduced without respect for obligatory procedures under international human rights conventions.[c] To secure common values like human rights in times of terrorism induced stress and an urgency driven environment poses a challenge to governments and international cooperation.[ci] Former UNSG, Kofi Annan, had deplored the “collateral damage” of the war on terrorism on human rights.’ Reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights have denounced human rights abuses worldwide in the name of counter-terrorism.[cii] Some authors like Samuel Ignatieff and David Luban even have seen the war on terrorism as the end of human rights.[ciii] The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, on 30 November 2001, declared that “If our response to terrorism is to lower our standards of human rights, then the terrorists have won.”[civ]

It is noteworthy that 17 independent experts of the UN Commission on Human Rights – in a joint statement issued on 10 December 2001 on the occasion of Human Rights Day – expressed: “(…)their deep concern over the adoption or contemplation of antiterrorist and national security legislation and other measures that may infringe upon the enjoyment for all of human rights and fundamental freedoms and deplored human rights violations and measures that have particularly targeted groups such as human rights defenders, migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, religious and ethnic minorities, political activists and the media.”[cv] “Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight against Terrorism”, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at its 84th session on July 11, 2002,[cvi] constitute a set of very important and helpful rules.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Report entitled “Human rights: a uniting framework”, “ensuring that innocent people do not become the victims of counter-terrorism strategy should be an important component of the anti-terrorism strategy”[cvii]. The “balance between human rights law and security”, through respect of requirements and principles of international law, such as legal requirements for derogation, and international humanitarian law, as reflected in jurisprudence and general comments of human rights bodies, is absolutely essential to ensure that States combat terrorism in accordance with their international obligation. There should always be a fair balance between legitimate national security concerns and respect for fundamental human rights. Even during an armed conflict, measures derogating from provisions of treaties are permitted only to the extent that the situation constitutes a threat to the life of the nation.”[cviii] Though perpetrators of terrorist acts which constitute
“crimes against humanity” must be punished, at the same time rights, such as the right to life, the prohibition against torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the principle of legality in the field of criminal law, the recognition of everyone as a person before the law and the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, may not be derogated from under any circumstances. Regrettably, the reality is opposite.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) should play an important role in this regard. After the establishment of this Court, the United States has exerted all possible pressure to exempt itself from the jurisdiction of ICC through resolutions of the UN Security Council and bilateral agreements. Instead of supporting the ICC, the USA through the Presidential Military Order issued on November 13, 2001 and approved by Congress, created special military commissions’ to try suspects of terrorist acts.

The monitoring committee of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has specifically considered whether Article 14 of this Covenant permits trials of civilians by special military courts and concluded that, although it is not expressly prohibited, “the trying of civilians by such courts should be very exceptional and take place under conditions which genuinely afford the full guarantees stipulated in Article 14”.[cix] This order excludes access to any international tribunal or committee seeking redress for any human rights violations that may occur during arrest, detention or prosecution.

Later, the American Congress passed legislation, entitled Uniting and Strengthening America by providing Appropriate Tools required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (October 26, 2001, commonly known as the USA Patriot Act), which applies also to Americans that are presumably “enemy combatants”. The USA Patriot Act provided intelligence agencies, both domestic and international, wide range of new law enforcement powers that, in essence, abolished the possibility of court intervention.

Likewise, the British Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 assigned extended power to the police, which among others could extract financial data and other information from competent financial services of the country. In addition, communications service providers are allowed to retain data about their customers’ communications for national security purposes. According to the Act of December 14[cx], an arrest could take place within the territory of the United Kingdom without judicial warrant and a person thus arrested could be detained indefinitely.


Counter terrorism efforts by international organizations have often drifted from the desired equitable approach. Selective and discriminatory applications of international law aimed at achieving undeclared agendas, under the garb of countering terrorism, has discredited the international counter terrorism effort. Even mammoth military interventions have only led to a messier environment. Due to hasty generalizations and oversimplifications, all stands mixed up—genuine freedom struggles, political insurgencies, struggle against violations of international humanitarian law, state and non-state terrorism, etc.

The understanding of the hardware and software of terrorism needs to be deconstructed and decoupled from the imposed relative legitimacy debate and recognized as neither legitimate nor illegal but simply as a form of conflict because ‘force is warfare and war is the power to inflict hurt and damage’.[cxi] This will allow an explanation of terrorism at all the levels and will be far more useful in attempting a comprehensive understanding of the causes and radiate a higher comfort level in resolving them. Notwithstanding the limitations, the orthodox terrorism theory is still the primary and normative discourse for explaining, understanding and dealing with terrorism. Although different approaches suggest a wide understanding of the roots of terrorism, alternatives to the orthodox terrorism theory have marginal acceptability. In order to develop a more sophisticated and advanced understanding of terrorism, there is a need to adopt a definition of terrorism that is outside of the moral legitimacy debate; freeing the understanding of terrorism from pejorative, moral and legal judgments that continually obscure the reasons for the violence. One simple definition of terrorism suggested by Jason Franks[cxii] is: ‘lethal political violence’. Although this definition is an attempt at neutrali

[1] The author is a consultant on Policy and Strategic Response at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).  He is a retired Air Commodore and a former Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force.



[i] Laqueur W, The Age of Terrorism, (Boston: Little Brown and Co, 1987), 1-15.

[ii] Kegley J R, International Terrorism, (London: Macmillan, 1990), 102. Source: Defining Terrorism & its Root Causes. References to the definition of terrorism and the root causes as discussed in the United Nations General Assembly debate “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”, October 1-5, 2001, United Nations, New York; at http://www.reachingcritical, consulted on 10 August2005.  And

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Alex P. Schmid, “Why Terrorism? Root Causes, Some Empirical Findings, and the Case of 9/11”, Presentation by Professor Schmid,  Director Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of  St.Andrew, Strasbourg, to Council of Europe on 25-26 April 2007. Document prepared by the Secretariat Counter-Terrorism Task Force Directorate General of Legal Affairs, Conf Prev Terr (2007) 18 rev Anglais seulement, Strasbourg, 03/05/07. , The spectrum of perceived causes is wide and the professed causes say as much – if not more – about the observer than about the observed phenomenon – terrorism. Many of the alleged causes of terrorism such as poverty, failed states, state-sponsoring, or discrimination rest on very weak or no empirical bases.


[vi] Rubenstein R E, Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World, (New York: Basic Books Inc, 1987), p.72.

[vii] O’Sullivan N, Terrorism, Ideology and Revolution, Brighton: Wheat sheaf Books, 1986, p.xiii. (intro).

[viii] Alex P. Schmid, “Why Terrorism? Root Causes, Some Empirical Findings, and the Case of 9/11”, p.3.

[ix] Ibid. p.4. Source: Defining Terrorism & its Root Causes. References to the definition of terrorism and the root causes as discussed in the United Nations General Assembly debate: “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”, October 1-5, 2001, United Nations, New York; at http://www.reachingcritical, consulted on 10 August 2005.

[x] Friedland N, Becoming a Terroris’, in Howard L, Terrorism: Roots, Impact and Responses, (New York: Praeger, 1992)  p.87.

[xi] Crenshaw M, ‘The Causes of Terrorism’, in Kegley J R, International Terrorism, p.113, [Kegley J R, International Terrorism, (London: Macmillan, 1990)].

[xii] Jason Franks, Rethinking the Roots of Terrorism, (Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS, England: Customer Services Department, Macmillan Distribution Ltd, Houndmills,), 11-18. Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies Series Standing Order ISBN 1–4039–9575–3 (hardback) & 1–4039–9575–1 (paperback) Series Editor: Oliver Richmond, Reader, School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews,

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv]Kaldor M, New and Old Wars ( London: Polity Press, 1999).

[xvi] Baylis J, Smith S, The Globalisation of World Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 5th ed, 1999.

[xvii] Foucault M, Intellectuals and Power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze’, in Bouchard D, Language, Counter-memory, Practice (New York: New York University Press, 1977), p. 208. Quoted in Edkins, Post structuralism, p.17.

[xviii] Jason Franks, Rethinking the Roots of Terrorism, p.13.

[xix] Laquer W, The New Terrorism (Oxford: Phoenix Press, 2001), p.8.

[xx] Quoted by Kramer M, Moral Logic of Hizballah, in Reich W, Origins, p.148.

[xxi] Cruise O’Brien C, ‘Terrorism under Democratic conditions the case of the IRA’, in Crenshaw M, Terrorism, Legitimacy and Power, p.93.

[xxii] Cruise O’Brien, in Crenshaw M, Terrorism, Legitimacy and Power, p.93.

[xxiii] Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy, pp.12–13.

[xxiv] Tyrannicide is the legitimate use of violence by non-state actors against a ‘tyrannical’ regime and is often cited as the justification for terrorism. However, the obvious problem with this is how to establish what exactly constitutes a ‘tyrannical regime’, and when to decide that terrorism, as ‘legitimate violence’, is permitted.

[xxv] Just war theory is also problematic, it offers actors a similar justification for terrorism and is open to relative interpretations.

[xxvi] Malik O, Enough of the Definition of Terrorism, (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2000), 36.

[xxvii] Bowyer Bell J, A Time of Terror, (New York: Basic Books, 1978), p.50-51.

[xxviii] Hoffman B, Inside Terrorism, p.15.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] This was a common understanding during the hijacks in the 1970s by Palestinian groups.

[xxxi] This has its roots in the theories of revolution and guerrilla warfare by proponents such as Mao Tse-Tung and Carlos Marighela.

[xxxii] Schmid A and Jongman A, Political Terrorism, p.7.

[xxxiii] Fawn R, Larkins A, International Society after the Cold War, ( London: Macmilian), p.193.

[xxxiv] Legitimacy can be defined as ‘the acceptance and recognition of the authority of the established government by the population’. And Sovereignty can be defined as ‘the existence of the sole authority of the state over its own population’.

[xxxv] Alexander Y, Cline R, Terrorism as State-Sponsored Covert Warfare, (New York: Hero Books, 1986), p.38.

[xxxvi] Calvert P, ‘Terror in the Theory of Revolution’, in O’Sullivan N, Terrorism Ideology and Revolution, (Brighton Sussex: Wheatsheaf Books, 1986), p.27.

[xxxvii] Arendt H, On Revolution, (London: Penguin, 1990), p.99.

[xxxviii] Rousseau J-J, The State of War, in Hoffman S, Fiddler D, Rousseau on

International Relations, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).

[xxxix] Chomsky N, ‘International Terrorism: Image and Reality’, in George A

(ed.), Western Sate Terrorism, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), p.12.

[xl] Stohl R, Slater R, Current Perspectives on International Terrorism, (Macmillan:

London 1988), p.8.

[xli] Sterling C, The Terror Network: The Secret War of International Terrorism, (New York: Holt, Reinhardt and Winston, 1983).

[xlii]  See, Gunaratna R, Inside al-Qeida.

[xliii] Crenshaw M, ‘The Logic of Terrorism: Terrorist Behaviour as a Product of Strategic Choice’, in Reich W, Origins of Terrorism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992),8.

[xliv] Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy, p.11. &  Marighela C, For the Liberation of Brazil,

(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971).

[xlv] Crenshaw M, ‘How Terrorists think: What psychology can contribute to understanding Terrorism’, in Howard L, Terrorism; Roots, Impact and Responses, (New York: Praeger, 1992), 71.

[xlvi] Hoffman B, Inside Terrorism, p.211.

[xlvii]  Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy, p.49.

[xlviii] Laquer W, The New Terrorism, p.274.

[xlix] Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy, pp.50 and (accessed on October 21, 2014)

[l] Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) are Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons. This debate suggests that if terrorists are in fact prepared to kill as many as possible then they will not be afraid of using WMDs contradicting the arguments of orthodox terrorism theory discussed above.

[li] Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy.

[lii] Laquer W, The New Terrorism, (Oxford: Phoenix Press, 3rd ed., 2001).

[liii] Linklater A, The Transformation of Political Community, (University of South Carolina Press, 1998).

[liv] Ibid.

[lv] 79 Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy, p.41.

[lvi] Bowyer Bell J, The Dynamics of Armed Struggle, (London: Frank Cass, 1998),


[lvii] See, Schmid A, Jongman A, Political Terrorism: A Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories and Literature, (Oxford: North Holland, 1988),p.56.

[lviii]O’Sullivan N, Terrorism, Ideology and Revolution, (Brighton: Wheatsheaf Books, 1986), p.6.

[lix] Chaliand G., Terrorism from Popular Struggle to Media Spectacle, (London: Saqi

Books, 1987), p.32.

[lx] Laquer W, The New Terrorism, (Oxford: Phoenix Press, 3rd ed.,2001), p.34

[lxi] Cassese A, Terrorism Politics and Law; The Achille Lauro Affair, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989),16.

[lxii] Della Porta D, ‘Left-Wing Terrorism In Italy’, in Crenshaw M, Terrorism in Context, p.117.

[lxiii] Kramer M, ‘The Moral logic of Hizballah’, in Reich W, Origins, p.145.

[lxiv] Begin M, The Revolt: The Story of Irgun, quoted in Rubenstein R E, Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World, (New York: Basic Books Inc, 1987),127.

[lxv] Crenshaw M, ‘The Causes of Terrorism’, in Kegley J R, International Terrorism, p.113.

[lxvi] Della Porta D, ‘Left-Wing Terrorism’, in Crenshaw M, Terrorism in Context, p.112 .

[lxvii] Sprinzak E, ‘The process of Delegitimation: Towards linkage theory of Political Terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence, p.54. (Acessed on October 09, 2014).

 [lxviii] Gurr T R, Why Men Rebel, (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), 13.

[lxix] Crenshaw M, Terrorism Legitimacy and Power, (Connecticut: Wesleyan Press, 1983),21.

[lxx] Camus A, The Rebel, (London: Penguin, 2nd ed., 2000),27.

[lxxi] Wilkinson P, ‘Future of Terrorism’, Valedictory Lecture, University of St Andrews, 29 April 2002.

[lxxii] Kegley J R, International Terrorism, p.101.

[lxxiii] Rubenstein R E, Alchemists, p.228.

[lxxiv] Fanon F, The Wretched of the Earth, (London: Penguin, 5th ed., 2001),118

[lxxv] Sartre J-P in Preface to Fanon F, The Wretched of the Earth.

[lxxvi] Bowyer Bell J, Dynamics, p.28.

[lxxvii] Shabad G, Ramo F, ‘Basque Terrorism in Spain’, in Crenshaw M, Context, p.415.

[lxxviii] Crenshaw M, Context, p.19.

[lxxix] Wilkinson P, Terrorism Versus Democracy, p.20.

[lxxx] Ibid.

[lxxxi] Conrad J, The Secret Agent, (London: Penguin, 5th ed, 2000).

[lxxxii] Bowyer Bell J, Dynamics, p.7.

[lxxxiii] Rubenstein R E, Alchemists, p.61.

[lxxxiv] Hoffman B, Inside Terrorism, p.43.

[lxxxv] Rubenstein R E, Alchemists, p.132.

[lxxxvi] Bowyer Bell J, Dynamics, p.33.

[lxxxvii] Pakistan Observer (Islamabad), October 15, 2014.

[lxxxviii] Ibid.

[lxxxix] Alessandria Marsi, “ISIS Recruiting Westerners: How The ‘Islamic State’ Goes After Non-Muslims And Recent Converts In The West”, International Business Times, (New York) September 08, 2014. (accessed on October 21, 2014).

[xc] Al Qaeda; Global jihadist leader no longer, A Study by The Regional Centre for Strategic Studies Cairo;  released  by Domestic Transformation Unit on October 14, 2014, as a part of Regional Assessments, Understanding Changing Middle East.

[xci] Ibid.

[xcii] Al Qaeda; Global jihadist leader no longer, A Study by The Regional Centre for Strategic Studies Cairo;  released  by Domestic Transformation Unit on October 14, 2014, as a part of Regional Assessments, Understanding Changing Middle East.

[xciii] “Can air strikes eliminate the Islamic State?”, The Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Cairo,  Regional Assessments: Understanding a Changing Middle East, October 21, 2014.

[xciv] Ibid.

[xcv] Ibid.

[xcvi] “Fire arms proliferation across the Middle East”, The Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Cairo, Regional Assessments: Understanding a Changing Middle East, October 22, 2014.

[xcvii] Ibid.

[xcviii] Ibid.

[xcix] Ibid.

[c] Address to the UN Security Council on 21 January 2003.

[ci] Colin Warbrick, Terrorism and Iluman Rights, in: Janusz Symonides (ed.), Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challenges, [UNESCO Publishing (Ashgate) 1998], 219.

[cii] In the Name of Counter-Tenorism: Human Rights Abuses Worldwide, Human Rights Watch Briefing, Paper for the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, March 25, 2003, http:i/hnv.orglunlchr/59/counter-terrorism-bck.htm; see hnncx XI11 for the report of IHF.

[ciii] in: Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly, Vol. 22 (2002, 3) 9-14; Michael Ignatieff, Will the Quest for Security Kill the Human Rights Era?, International Herald Tribunc of 6 February 2002.

[civ] Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 1/2002,93.

[cv] David Luban, The War on Terrorism and the End of Human Rights.

[cvi] See above contribution by Martin Eaton “Council of Europe Measures against Terrorism”

and the “Guidelines” in Annex X. See above contributions by Christiane Bourloyannis-Vrailas “United Nations Human Rights Standards as Framework Conditions for Anti-Terrorist Measures” and Martin

Eaton “Human Rights as Standards and Framework Conditions for Anti-Terrorist Measures: European Standards and Procedures”. Wolfgang Benedek and Alice Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos (eds.), Anti-Terrorist Measures and Human Rights. (The Netherlands: 2004).

[cvii] Wolfgang Benedec and Alice Yotopoulous-Marangopolous (Eds), Anti Terrorism measures and Human Rights,( Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2114), 173 and Annexure II.

[cviii] Annex 11: Commission on Human Rights, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Mary Robinson) and Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights of 27 February 2002, E/CN.4/2002/18.

[cix] Drumbl, M. A, “Judging the 11 September TerroristAttack”, Human Rights Quarterly 24 (2002) pp. 323-360.

[cx] Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act adopted on 14 December 2001,

[cxi] Stohl M, ‘States, Terrorism and State Terrorism’, in Slater R and Stohl M, Current Perspectives, p.171.

[cxii]  Jason Franks, Rethinking the Roots of Terrorism, p.17.