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Thursday, September 16, 2010
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
CNLS Conference Room (TA-3, Bldg 1690)

Postdoc Seminar

Targeting by Transnational Terrorists Groups

Alexander Gutfraind

Many successful terrorist groups operate across international borders where different countries host different stages of terrorist operations. Often the recruits for the group come from one country or countries, while the targets of the operations are in another. Stopping such attacks is difficult because intervention in any region or route might merely shift the terrorists elsewhere. Here we propose a model of transnational terrorism based on the theory of activity networks. The model represents attacks on different countries as paths in a network. The group is assumed to prefer paths of lowest cost (or risk) and maximal yield from attacks. The parameters of the model are computed for the Islamist-Salafi terrorist movement based on open source data and then used for estimation of risks of future attacks. The central finding is that the USA has an enduring appeal as a target, due to lack of other nations of matching geopolitical weight or openness. It is also shown that countries in Africa and Asia that have been overlooked as terrorist bases may become highly significant threats in the future. The model quantifies the dilemmas facing countries in the effort to cut such networks, and points to a limitation of deterrence against transnational terrorists.

Host: CNLS