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OpsLens: Management of Savagery – Inside Terrorist Training Camps


Management of Savagery – Inside Terrorist Training Camps

Terrorists are all over the news, but I haven’t seen many examples of how they live, recruit and train. There are some specific similarities, some which conform to historic patterns, but there are differences as well. This is gleaned from official investigations, eyewitness testimony, critically parsing terrorist propaganda, yet is still enlightening and worth studying.

Raqqa, capital of ISIS in 2014: The information comes from the forcibly recruited young children and their concerned parents who led their families away. Thirteen-year-old Muhammad was picked up by masked gunmen and taken to a children’s camp. He was given a blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll and large knife and told to practice beheading them by ISIS trainers. Inside the city ISIS banned traditional games and forced them in the army. The children are eventually transferred to adult camps where they learn how to use arms and basic small-unit tactics.

Syria, 2015: Small-arms and ideological indoctrination are the most common factor among these groups. A detailed study of ISIS across greater Syria reviews several of the major ideological tenets. Three of the major ones include: tawhid (strict monotheism), bida’a (deviation in religious matters) and wala wal baraa (loyalty to Islam and disloyalty to anything un-Islamic). The commanders might study manuals such as Management of Savagery, a jihad book written by Abu Bakr Naji. The often foreign recruits receive language training in Arabic, and rhetoric against the Iraqi and Syrian governments. The two dominant groups give ISIS its character and resilience. These include long-standing takfiris (radicals who adhere to teachings that declare fellow Muslims as infidels) and young zealots. The trainees are often assigned to man check points under the direction of a supervisor until they are ready.
Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, 2015: Al-Qaeda is not totally gone either. With fewer American troops and a resurgent Taliban, they have found places for some of the largest camps since the start of the war in remote parts of Afghanistan. This is the largest similarity with historical factors as insurgencies generally benefit from rough terrain. Mao Zedong’s early insurgency was in Jiangxi province China that was only a few hundred miles from key cities like Changsha and Shanghai, but they were far enough away with few roads and mountainous jungle terrain that they could operate with greater amounts of freedom and launch attacks against those key cities. They were helped immensely by the region’s long history of rebellion.
MEK, Albania, 2018: The terrorist training camps are not reserved for remote deserts and mountains. Albania has seen an influx of terrorist groups. The group labelled MEK has their own compound where law enforcement officials cannot penetrate. Similar to other compounds around the world, they have walls, gatehouses, and look-out posts. Inside the compound is a small-arms fire training range and a concrete armory. There is some tension between the MEK and the newcomers. The widows and orphans of ISIS members are moving in, so even though Syria is thousands of miles away the actions of terrorists over there can have negative influences over here (see more on that below.) The MEK uses the money from illegal arms sales and smuggling to provide generous stipends to the widows, influence politicians and solidify their mob connections. They are a potent transnational force within the region that is a short distance away from the centers of Europe.

Islamic, New Mexico, 2018: Finally, there are home-grown terrorists. Years ago, the FBI reported that they have terror investigations in each of the 50 states. Earlier this year the government found a compound in the wilds of New Mexico. The findings included a ten-page, handwritten document, titled “Phases of a Terrorist Attack,” that described detailed tactical instructions for carrying out a mass-casualty event. This included instructions for “the one-time terrorist,” determining ideal attack locations, using “choke points,” defending “safe havens,” escaping perimeter rings, and detecting sniper positions. This document indicates the defendants were not merely talking a deadly talk, but had been carefully planning an attack. Surprisingly similar to ISIS in Iraq and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the writings at the New Mexico compound attacked the legitimacy of institutions like the government and public schools. Again, they had numerous small-arms with some law enforcement officials calling it an “arsenal.” They also had instructions to make an untraceable assault rifle. They were living far away from government control in a remote area off the grid to avoid authorities and were only found because of a massive national search for a kidnapped child.

So what can we say about terrorists based on their training camps and records found? They largely rely upon the disaffected in society. Recruiters target those who are adrift economically and angry at the political class. They use evocative interpretations of scriptures to attack the ruling class and stabilizing institutions like schools. (In the case of the Red Mosque in Pakistan, they start their own schools to transmit this information.) They often have political freedom and space due to the lack of government control to create their camps. In the case of the U.S., they abuse liberal laws regarding guns and home-schooling to stay away from the prying eyes of government officials. (But large parts of the third world are awash in guns so they are no better.) The San Bernardino shooters benefited from political correctness as the neighbors of the attackers were afraid to alert authorities over fear of being labelled racist. Their tactics consist of small-arms fire and improvised explosive devices. These are relatively easy to transport and make, and can be hid in civilian areas. The terrorists don’t have the money or technical expertise to buy and operate tanks and aircraft. But the proliferation of small-arms around the world and the ingenuity behind homemade bombs make those the preferred tactics for a number of reasons.
As we consider the threat from terrorism it is important to closely glean as much information as we can from a variety of sources to understand and counter the threat. The mainstream media did a particularly poor job by failing to adequately cover the enormity of the terrorist threat in New Mexico, but many international observers do the same thing in reporting on foreign camps. Hopefully this becomes a useful guide that moves past screeching rhetoric to provide specific details.
Management of Savagery — Inside Terrorist Training Camps
OpsLens: Management of Savagery - Inside Terrorist Training Camps

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