Commenced in January 2007
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Enhancing Strategic Counter-Terrorism: Understanding How Familial Leadership Influences the Resilience of Terrorist and Insurgent Organizations in Asia

Authors: Andrew D. Henshaw

Abstract:

The research examines the influence of familial and kinship based leadership on the resilience of politically violent organizations. Organizations of this type frequently fight in the same conflicts though are called 'terrorist' or 'insurgent' depending on political foci of the time, and thus different approaches are used to combat them. The research considers them correlated phenomena with significant overlap and identifies strengths and vulnerabilities in resilience processes. The research employs paired case studies to examine resilience in organizations under significant external pressure, and achieves this by measuring three variables. 1: Organizational robustness in terms of leadership and governance. 2. Bounce-back response efficiency to external pressures and adaptation to endogenous and exogenous shock. 3. Perpetuity of operational and attack capability, and political legitimacy. The research makes three hypotheses. First, familial/kinship leadership groups have a significant effect on organizational resilience in terms of informal operations. Second, non-familial/kinship organizations suffer in terms of heightened security transaction costs and social economics surrounding recruitment, retention, and replacement. Third, resilience in non-familial organizations likely stems from critical external supports like state sponsorship or powerful patrons, rather than organic resilience dynamics. The case studies pair familial organizations with non-familial organizations. Set 1: The Haqqani Network (HQN) - Pair: Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Set 2: Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) - Pair: The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Case studies were selected based on three requirements, being: contrasting governance types, exposure to significant external pressures and, geographical similarity. The case study sets were examined over 24 months following periods of significantly heightened operational activities. This enabled empirical measurement of the variables as substantial external pressures came into force. The rationale for the research is obvious. Nearly all organizations have some nexus of familial interconnectedness. Examining familial leadership networks does not provide further understanding of how terrorism and insurgency originate, however, the central focus of the research does address how they persist. The sparse attention to this in existing literature presents an unexplored yet important area of security studies. Furthermore, social capital in familial systems is largely automatic and organic, given at birth or through kinship. It reduces security vetting cost for recruits, fighters and supporters which lowers liabilities and entry costs, while raising organizational efficiency and exit costs. Better understanding of these process is needed to exploit strengths into weaknesses. Outcomes and implications of the research have critical relevance to future operational policy development. Increased clarity of internal trust dynamics, social capital and power flows are essential to fracturing and manipulating kinship nexus. This is highly valuable to external pressure mechanisms such as counter-terrorism, counterinsurgency, and strategic intelligence methods to penetrate, manipulate, degrade or destroy the resilience of politically violent organizations.

Keywords: Counterinsurgency (COIN), counter-terrorism, familial influence, insurgency, intelligence, kinship, resilience, terrorism

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