Homeland Security

Terrorism in the 21st Century: Battling Non State Actors
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 25 Jan , 2015

The author of New York bestseller “The internet,” Scheuer said, “internet allows militant Muslims from every country to meet, talk, and get to know each other electronically, a familiarization and bonding process that in the 1980s and early 1990s required a trip to Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan or Pakistan.”  Additionally the internet enables jihadists organizations to share intelligence, coordinate attacks, plan and strategise as well as spread justifications for their actions  followed by “online military training: small unit tactics; the use and manufacture of toxins and poisons; trade craft for intelligence activities; martial arts manuals; textbooks, or sections thereof, dealing with the theory and construction of weapons of mass destruction; al Qaeda’s now famous Encyclopaedia of Jihad” and many more, he adds. This massive data of information is available in all the language to any non state actor planning an attack, not just militants.  And with the increasing number of users and medium to access, this information flows from a user to another user with absolute anonymity.

Armed with internet the non-state actors work progressively to extend their reach, making more difficult for operators to eliminate threats.

The internet security further raises concern for more vigilance as transnational actors work freely without even sharing boundaries.  This multiplies the challenges a nation faces while combating the non-state actors.  Great powerful nations can easily target and eliminate physical bases and operating camps but it cannot eliminate transnational networks such as the ability to organize, recruit, finance, plan, and spread ideology.  Movable in nature, these terrorist groups coordinate attacks, plan and promote heinous crimes against humanity; while there surviving members infiltrate the nation. Armed with internet the non-state actors work progressively to extend their reach, making more difficult for operators to eliminate threats. With support from terrorist organizations worldwide, and internet access on their doorstep organizations like Al Qaeda does not fear nuclear threat.  If they seek nuclear threats then this would create a problem heavily for US and its allies.

Thus this modernization in technology grants both the state and the non-state actor’s ability to act in a situation which makes the state more vulnerable. For example, Al Qaeda with its vats materialistic support wants nations like US to attack first; while the US cannot risk the possibility of next attack by Al Qaeda as it will then be able to arm itself with nuclear technology.  This contrast the analysis of Richard K Bright.  While Bright correctly identitifies the, present needs and challenges but he incorrectly assesses the physical pressure on the nations.  He states the current situation as an “active defence,” using the abilities of counter terrorist organizations.  Thus the overall objective is clear “threat of an undeletable nuclear attack, coupled with the insufficiency of surveillance technology in the physical and virtual realms, create strong incentives for states to go on the offensive”, he adds.

Using Non State Actors in Foreign Policy

Non state actors are not merely a threat or risk to be mitigated. Rather, there are some non-state actors that could play an extremely valuable and effective role in promoting the foreign policy objectives of a state. Claude Bruderlein has explained the value of non-state actors in the context of armed conflict, but his comments are equally applicable to other situations:

…non-state actors can more effectively build a network with civil society representatives and focus with them on longer-term perspectives.

“These actors function without the constraints of a narrow foreign policy mandate of state institutions, with increased access to areas inaccessible to official actors. They can talk to several parties at once without losing credibility. They can deal directly with grassroots populations and operate without political or public scrutiny. In addition, non-state actors can more effectively build a network with civil society representatives and focus with them on longer-term perspectives. They are less subject to complaints of outside interference or breaches of sovereignty. In short, these actors are often more flexible than state actors especially in internal conflict situations.”

The state’s diplomatic, economic and development resources should be coordinated to maximize the contribution of non-state actors that are supportive of the government’s foreign policy program. Following are some examples of how foreign policy realigned to reflect non-state actors can work.

Republicans have made combating human trafficking – a practice that denies human liberty and allows organized crime to flourish – a foreign policy priority. Organizations that obtain government funding to combat human trafficking in the U.S. must be committed to the abolition of the modern-day slave trade, as opposed to promoting a regulated sex trade. Faith-based organizations alongside humanitarian organizations have formed a powerful coalition around the issue.

At the same time, U.S. law enforcement agencies are active abroad and at-home investigating and prosecuting both traffickers and child sex offenders. NGOs in the field help identify victims and offenders, gathering evidence for prosecutions. Diplomatic pressure is kept up by an annual ranking of how other countries are doing on combating human trafficking, drawing on information from NGOs in the field. Tourism companies are also required by law on certain flights to caution travellers about extraterritorial and local laws against child sex tourism. U.S. embassies around the world organize informal meetings of local groups to build coalitions to catalyze change on the issue. This overarching approach of building a powerful NGO and business coalition to combat transnational criminal organizations is compelling, and it is working. It is a remarkable demonstration of how far a polycentric strategic foreign policy can go, without making a large financial investment. Indeed, so much foreign aid funding is uncoordinated that merely coordinating what is already budgeted could lead to big results.

The US has been fully aware of the economic power of its businesses for some time. It has long recognized that aligning these non-state actors with its foreign policy objectives is necessary.

Likewise, the U.S. has been fully aware of the economic power of its businesses for some time. It has long recognized that aligning these non-state actors with its foreign policy objectives is necessary. Most notably, the U.S. has opted to do so through legal prohibitions on export and travel to unfriendly regimes. The private military and security company industry has also not escaped notice. The U.S. licensing regime for military services requires all American PMCs to register with the State Department, and their activities must conform to the United States Munitions List and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (both of which regulate military services as well as arms). A license must be obtained for every U.S. PMC contract. Larger contracts (i.e. those over US$14 million in equipment or US$50 million in services) require Presidential approval.

Realizing the strategic importance of PMCs, the U.S. barred its PMCs in the 1990s from working for certain parties in the former Yugoslavia, and in 2002 for Robert Mugabe’s Government of Zimbabwe.


Talking about the sovereignty of a nation, these NSA’s will continue to hamper and dismantle security by external or internal means, which makes this absolute necessary to deal with.  No matter how much we debate on their actions and discuss our repercussions illegal trade of arms and aiding terrorist organizations will continue to work if strong actions are not taken. I fear increasing militancy in the world, will soon become a cause of demise for the UN.  Former Secretary General Kofi Annan once said:

With no actual steps to tackle active violent acts performed by non-state actors, the world will soon be gripped in war.

“Overhauling basic management practices and building a more transparent, efficient, and effective United Nations system to revamping our major intergovernmental institutions so that they reflect today’s world and advance the priorities set forth in the present report, we must reshape the Organization in ways not previously imagined and with a boldness and speed not previously shown…While purposes should be firm and principles constant, practice and organization need to move with the times.  If the United Nations is to be a useful instrument for its Member States and for the world’s peoples…it must be fully adapted to the needs and circumstances of the twenty-first century.”

Indeed the UN is surrounding with major political and economical challenges.  For UN to become a successful organization it imperative that reforms are changed.  However the real challenge is implementing the reforms.  Simply debating the issues and that too an issue like terrorism will slowly lead to the demise of this magnificent organization that was once formed to change the world. With no actual steps to tackle active violent acts performed by NSA’s, the world will soon be gripped in war. The UN should revamp its charter with the growing developments in 21st century. The UN must create a CTC that will work independently and deal with the sole issue of growing terrorism. I sincerely hope that these changes are promoted in the organization making it a collective security giant that will ensure strong partnership between member nations, intelligence agencies, and non government organizations, and implement a multilateral arrangement to eliminate activities by NSA’s.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anant Mishra

is a security analyst with expertise in counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations. His policy analysis has featured in national and international journals and conferences on security affairs.

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2 thoughts on “Terrorism in the 21st Century: Battling Non State Actors

  1. IMHO the INCREASING POWER of non-state actors, the global erosion of “state sovereignty” is GREAT NEWS! In general, the more states lose control the better. THE WORST TERRORISTS IN THE WORLD ARE STATES. Terrorism by states is often large-scale, is difficult to fight against, and the perpetrators are difficult to bring into justice. Repeated terrorist attacks by aerial bombing are particularly appalling. (Sometimes feel the Islamic State is one of the best states in the world given it has no air force.) Means to defend against these attacks by antiaircraft missiles MUST be provided when necessary.
    LONG LIVE brave non-state actors fighting tyrannical states! Fighting filthy China, Russia, EGYPT (soon there will be ten million jihadists there if it continues like this) and, of course, the remnants of the Syrian “state” of Bashar al-Assad, the greatest ultra-criminal, mega-terrorist, apocalyptic scale mass murderer of our age, the father of ISIS, the great incubator of al-Qaeda and facilitator of the Iranian theocratic empire in Syria, the man who produced one million jihadists.
    EVERY DAY CHEERING HEROES such as the great Mexican “El Chapo” Guzman!

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