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Combating terrorist networks: An evolutionary approach

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This paper will briefly examine how Al Qaeda evolved from an insurgency assistance group to a terrorist network of sophistication and global reach. It argues that Al Qaeda filled the needs of Islamist insurgencies and then developed into a complex system of networks by co-opting other groups, hijacking their agendas and transforming their ideologies during the late 1990s to the present. Al Qaeda thus has global and local aspects. Locally-oriented “associate” organizations may have somewhat variant structures and will vary in their goals, targets, and ideology. In some ways, these groups are more vulnerable to discovery by local authorities and disruption. They tend to lack the training, professionalism, education and capacity to ensure strict security measures and discipline within their own ranks. They lack resources such as weaponry and human social capital, such as experience or specific kinds of knowledge that Al Qaeda has been able to provide. Because they are only loosely coupled to the parent organization, both parent and “child” network receive “force multiplier” benefits while minimizing risks and costs.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Goolsby.

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Goolsby, R. Combating terrorist networks: An evolutionary approach. Comput Math Organiz Theor 12, 7–20 (2006).

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