Nonstate warfare will be one of the means of fighting wars in the 21st century.

It takes many appearances – crime, insurgency, terrorism, tribalism, etc.  These are not new threats, but modern technology has increased individual productivity and power allowing non-state actors to compete with nation-states.

Our task is to describe the organization and operations of hostile networks in order to create counter strategies.


Recognize this?
This is the social network of the 9/11 hijackers based on public source info by Vladis Krebs.

The network consisted of about 70 individuals that we know of, not just the 19 hijackers. This is an infiltration company, designed to bypass linear defenses and police detection in Europe and the United States. Each member has specialized roles to play to achieve success. They were the tip of the spear, a part of a much larger organization of tens of thousands in Afghanistan and Europe. Using the spear analogy, the metal tip is only moderately dangerous; it is the long wooden shaft that turns it into a deadly weapon. If you want to stop it, you break the shaft. Identify the organization’s center of gravity and strike it.

The network company needed a commander (Mohammad Atta), pilots, hijackers, and support personnel. They were divided into “cells” or squads of 5-12 men. Handlers arranged transportation, safe houses, finances, and security to prevent detection of the cells. Beyond this company, al-Qaeda required sanctuary in Afghanistan and other locations to build a command hierarchy and training facilities. They financed their operations through the black market and collected intelligence from sympathetic immigrants in Europe and the US. Al-Qaeda has the potential to create hundreds of companies of various qualities.

Militaries have relied on networks throughout history, principally for intelligence. Networks are ideal for evasion, espionage and asymmetrical warfare. Intelligence networking and its terminology provides an adequate comparison to insurgent networks. These networks “closed” meaning they erect barriers to prevent observation and infiltration. A large network is compartmentalized so damage can be isolated. Networks are willing to lose a cell to save the whole, so members of each cell will not know about other cells and often a member only knows five other members. Cells have a ‘handler’  who links with other cells or leaders.

Network warfare is a new style of fighting in the information age. John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt describe this phenomenon in Networks and Netwars. Network Warfare is the “use of network forms of organization, doctrine, strategy and technology attuned to the information age.” While the Industrial Age favored state-run military hierarchies, the Information Age favors non-state actors in social-networks. The internet, cell phones, fax machines and AK-47s empowered networks.

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