Posts Tagged tradecraft

Analyzing Breaking Events

By Scott Stewart

In last week’s Security Weekly, Tristan Reed and I provided a little bit of an “inside baseball” look at how we analyze the transnational criminal cartels in Mexico. We tried to explain some of the challenges that analysts face while analyzing a human network — Los Zetas in this instance — that is by its very nature a criminal and clandestine organization.

But cutting through the misinformation and disinformation surrounding murky human networks is not the only difficult task Stratfor analysts are faced with. Indeed, perhaps one of the most difficult things we are asked to do is untangle, decipher and contextualize breaking events for our readers and custom intelligence clients. Sometimes we are able to do so pretty well — a rapid reaction piece I wrote on Sept. 14, 2012, “Understanding What Went Wrong in Benghazi,” continues to be a highly read analysis. But on occasion, we’ve even fallen into the trap set by erroneous reporting. For example, our very first analysis on the attack in Benghazi incorrectly stated that the casualties were caused by rocket-propelled grenade attacks on the motorcade leaving the compound and that the incident was the result of violent protests over a derogatory movie about the Prophet Mohammed instead of a calculated assault by a well-trained and heavily armed militia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft

Evolution and Trends in Terrorism Tradecraft is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Scott Stewart

The terrorist tradecraft discussed in last week’s Security Weekly does not happen in isolation. The practitioners of terrorist tradecraft conduct their activities in the midst of other people — the authorities attempting to identify them and thwart their plans as well as civilians. Terrorist tradecraft also does not remain static. It is constantly evolving. These changes are prompted not only by countermeasures put in place to prevent terrorist attacks but also by advances in technology — a powerful force that can serve to either nullify old tradecraft practices or to provide new tools to the purveyors of terror.

Terrorism is an enduring reality. While geopolitical changes may cause a shift in the actors who employ terrorism as a tactic, terrorism will continue to be used no matter what the next geopolitical cycle brings. It is, and will continue to be, a tactic used by militant actors who want to confront a militarily superior enemy. Focusing on the tradecraft used in attacks and charting its changes and trends not only permits observers to understand what is happening and why but also provides an opportunity to forecast what is coming next. Read the rest of this entry »

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Terrorism Tradecraft

Terrorism Tradecraft is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Scott Stewart

One of the distinctive features of Stratfor’s terrorism and security analysis is its focus on the methodology of attacks. Of course, identifying those responsible for an attack is important, especially in ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice. But Stratfor believes that analyzing the way in which an attack was conducted is more important because it can prevent future attacks and protect potential victims. It is likewise important to recognize that even if a terrorist is killed or arrested, other groups and individuals share terrorist tactics. Sometimes this comes from direct interaction. For example, many of the Marxist terrorist groups that trained together in South Yemen, Lebanon and Libya in the 1980s employed similar tactics. Otherwise, a tactic’s popularity is derived from its effectiveness. Indeed, several terrorist groups adopted airline hijacking in the 1960s and 1970s.

The mechanics of terrorism go far beyond target selection and the method of attack. This is especially true of aspiring transnational terrorists. Basic military skills may be helpful in waging terrorist attacks in areas where a militant group has access to men, weapons and targets — such was the case with Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, Libya — but an entirely different set of skills is required to operate in a hostile environment or at a distance. This set of skills is known as terrorist tradecraft. Read the rest of this entry »

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