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The War on Terrorism: A Closer Look at Terrorist Training Camps

By Sanjay De


The War on Terrorism has become a central issue in United States foreign policy. After September 11th, 2001, citizens of the United States demanded prompt and definitive\ud action against the perpetrators of the attacks. In particular, al Qaeda, an entity not\ud affiliated with a state, was seen as the main enemy. The paradigm of war had changed\ud significantly, with non-state actors posing a significant threat to the United States.\ud While many aspects of the War on Terrorism have been described and discussed,\ud information about terrorist training camps is deficient. There is scarce information about\ud why terrorists choose to establish training camps in certain areas over others. Gaining a\ud better understanding of this phenomenon may help the United States in the War on\ud Terrorism, as such information will likely help to address underlying issues that allow\ud terrorist training camps to develop. Indeed, it seems that effective policies to tackle the\ud issue of terrorist training camps are simply nonexistent. Clearly, an analysis of training\ud camps is particularly important as well as timely. The significance of studying training\ud camps, then, is quite obvious.\ud The research question I will address is, "Why are al Qaeda training camps located\ud in certain places and not in others?" This question is significant because it seeks to\ud address some of the underlying reasons behind the formation of training camps, which\ud scholars currently have not addressed. Furthermore, it is important to understand why\ud terrorists establish camps in certain areas and not others. A better understanding of the topic may allow the United States to prevent training camps from taking hold by\ud eliminating the mechanisms used to carry out terrorist attacks.\ud There is no literature on why terrorists choose to establish camps in certain areas\ud and not others. Previous literature has dealt largely with regard to terrorist operations. For\ud example, one school of thought suggests that a failed state is one that is ideal for terrorist\ud activity. Other schools of thought include rogue states as partnerships for terrorist groups,\ud the effect of public opinion on the legitimacy of terrorist organizations, and the influence\ud of geography and borders on the detepninatίon of the location of terrorist operations.\ud With some modifications, these schools of thought could be adapted to inquire about the\ud Jihadis' decisions of where to locate training camps. However, the focus is on training\ud camps, and these schools of thought will be adapted to describe the location of training\ud camps. As an example, failed states may aid the development of training camps because\ud their weak law enforcement capability allows terrorists to operate freely, giving a\ud transnational terrorist group like al Qaeda incentive to establish training camps. The other\ud schools of thought have their own hypotheses as well, and these will be analyzed in\ud further detail in the appropriate section.\ud The cases that this paper will discuss are two regions in the world, and multiple\ud countries within those two regions. In particular, this paper will look at the Horn of\ud Africa, which includes the countries of Sudan, Somalia and Kenya, and Central Asia,\ud particularly Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The importance of these cases lies in\ud the fact that al Qaeda operated in these countries in the 1990s but only some of them\ud were used for institutionalized training. Furthermore, it is widely accepted that al Qaeda\ud established training camps in Afghanistan and wanted to relocate to Sudan. However, by studying the surrounding countries, one can gain a better understanding of why training\ud camps are located in certain countries and not in others. In order to study the cases\ud effectively, the variables for all of the schools of thought will be tested.\ud The structure of the thesis will be as follows: First, we will go over some basic\ud background about training camps, including requirements and activities at camps. Then,\ud we will proceed to look at literature that tries to explain why terrorists operate in certain\ud countries and not others. This literature will be adapted for use with training camps\ud instead of operations. Then, the methodology section will describe the indicators that\ud correspond to the various schools of thought. We will then move on to the case studies of\ud the various countries. I will conclude with a discussion directed toward remedying some\ud of the underlying reasons why terrorists choose to establish training camps in certain\ud areas. However, we must note that generalizibility may be limited, as only two regions of\ud the world will be studied, but this case study will still be significant, as scholarship on\ud this particular topic is scarce

Year: 2008
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