Ds-004 a strategic Simulation Architecture of the Rise of Radical Islamic Terrorists in Afghanistan




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DS-004 A Strategic Simulation Architecture of the Rise of Radical Islamic Terrorists in Afghanistan





Before a clear or coherent strategy can be developed to reduce the number of radical, militant Islamists (hereinafter referred to as 'terrorists'), the time-path of history, and desired outcomes, must be specified. In business contexts these are usually profit or revenue targets, but in dealing with terrorists they may be stated as the following, for example:



  • Reduce and eliminate current terrorist forces by killing them.

  • Reduce and eliminate the ability of terrorist forces to recruit and retain members.

  • Increase the drivers of conversion of terrorists into civilians.


Senior policymakers want to eliminate current terrorist forces as an (initial) desired outcome. As we identify a desired outcome, we must also explicitly embrace a feared outcome -- an important discipline that clarifies the plausible range of outcomes, forming a common basis for policy development. Thus, a feared outcome is that terrorist forces will increase their numbers (and hence their terrorist activity, which is directly estimated from the number of terrorists, the number of weapons they posses and their financial resources).


What all performance objectives have in common is that they have to be achieved over a period of time, and they can all be measured. These simple points are often overlooked, both in corporate and public policy situations, leading to vague pronouncements without any means of evaluating success. This is not, in our view, an adequately professional approach to strategic management.


Senior policymakers require simulation to understand complex political and economic systems and to design indicators that identify critical linkages, dynamic tendencies, and leverage points for action (Meadows, 1998). In the development of people's beliefs and assumptions on how to best address complex problems, they often misjudge delays, fail to see critical relationships or end up focusing energy on solutions that, while appearing of great immediate benefit, do not have a high and long-lasting beneficial impact on the system. This is a common problem. Without proper training, humans are not effective at solving complex problems because of basic, ingrained and erroneous beliefs and assumptions on how the world operates (Sterman, 1987). Simulation helps people create results in the real world.


The rapid development of a ‘strategic simulation architecture’ (SSA) is essential to the crafting of real-time strategy and tactics. The development of a SSA enables all those involved in seeking to change a situation with clear foci for action, and a means for prioritizing, time-phasing, coordinating and scaling those actions (Warren, 2001).


Simudyne's strategic simulation architectures are based on stock and flow diagrams, along with feedback loops (Sterman, 2001; Warren, 2001). A stock describes the state of the resources of a particular system at any given time, such as cash available to terrorist leaders or the square kilometers of land rendered unusable due to landmines. Resources may be tangible (such as cash, ammunition, refugees, terrorists), intangible (such as anger, morale, quality of military equipment) and indirect, which depend on how others feel (such as reputation of a country among the international community). Flows are the rate at which resources are being pumped into or out of the stock over a period of time. (Meadows, 1998; Warren, 2001). Acquisition or destruction of military armament and growth or harvests of poppies are examples of flows that change stocks (Total Military Ordinance and Total Poppies respectively). The stock-flow orientation is related to the pressure-state orientation common to United Nations and other indicator systems (Meadows, 1998).


A simple metaphor for a stock and flow is the filling up and draining of a tank or bathtub. The faucet provides the inflow of water, while the drain provides the outflow. At any point in time, there is a resource of water, some specific quantity, in the bathtub. The current quantity of an accumulating stock, that is, water in the tank, is identically equal to the sum of all water added minus all water lost (Warren, 2001). Thus, the amount of water in a bathtub is now, and always will be, precisely equal (to the drop!) to the amount of water put in less the amount of water that has drained out (or evaporated!). This is not opinion or theory, but a fundamental law of nature and is the defining characteristic of any 'accumulating asset stock' such as water, cash, terrorists, arms-in-circulation etc.


All complex systems, whether natural or human-designed, are managed through control loops, referred to as positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops in systems terms (Sterman, 2001). A classic example of a positive feedback loop is compounding interest. Positive feedback loops generate spectacular growth or collapse that, when left unchecked, often defy people's intuitive ability to grasp. Negative feedback loops exist when a goal, whether explicit or implicit, is set to move from one position to another. A simple example of a negative feedback loop would be a driver attempting to go from 0 mph to a goal speed of 55 mph within one minute.


Policymakers, intelligence analysts and military planners create goals, such as killing a group of terrorists, decreasing infant mortality to some level, planting or removing a certain number of landmines, or improving women's literacy. In the creation of these goals, policymakers knowingly or unknowingly create negative feedback loops. While the concept of negative feedback loops is simple in theory, they often generate surprising and problematic behavior if they go undetected (Senge, 1990).


Delays are an intrinsic part of every system. Virtually all feedback processes have some form of delay (Senge, 1990, p. 89). In complex systems the actions taken today often bear fruit only after many years. Occasionally, actions that were taken in the past generate consequences in the future that were unforeseen and unintended. These delays, the time between action and consequence, are the crucial moments between knowledge of unintended consequences and the scramble to fix them. Delays can lead to instability and the breakdown of the system, often because they go unnoticed and unappreciated. Once understood, however, their effect can be a powerful ally and advantage (Senge, 1990). Systems themselves function at their own speed with or without manipulation. Delays are largely perception, based on what we `believe' is happening versus what is really happening. Adjusting our own beliefs to reflect a clearer understanding of the impact of delays gives us an advantage in working within the system.


Radical, militant Islamic organizations (hereinafter referred to as 'terrorist organizations'), like any economic entity, require a vision of their desired future, humans, commitment and the financial and non-financial assets to function. With a compelling vision, human leaders, and sufficient financial assets, terrorist organizations implement a variety of marketing tactics to recruit and retain members. To effectively wage war, they must pay humans and acquire military supplies, weapons, and ammunition. It is also necessary to pay for travel, entertainment, meals, computers, communication equipment and other required items.


A terrorist organization is a complex system and by identifying key resources, critical linkages, flow rates and the drivers of flows we better understand terrorist recruitment and development. This work is diagrammatically summarized as a strategic simulation architecture (SSA). The development of a SSA enables all those involved in seeking to change a situation with clear foci for action, and a means for prioritizing, time-phasing, coordinating and scaling those actions (Warren, 2001). A SSA: (1) captures, numerically, how things are changing through time; (2) quantifies the accumulation of stocks, whose data is not susceptible to statistical analysis; (3) focuses sharply on the proximal causes, and the explanations for those proximal causes, rather than identifying broad coincidences that are of virtually no actionable value; and (4) provides a crystal-clear, pictorial, quantitative representation of all the causes and their drivers.


It is 'terrorists' plus 'weapons' who kill people so policymakers must understand and manage the sources and potential drains of the terrorist group and their weaponry. There is no mechanism for directly reducing the number of terrorists or their weapons, from policy or other forces - the only way to change the number of terrorists or their weapons is by actions that accelerate or decelerate the in-flows and out-flows to the key stocks (Terrorists and Weapons respectively).Terrorists have accumulated a number of key resources over the years that enable them to compete effectively as a distributed, covert network.


In Afghanistan, terrorist groups historically relied on private financiers such as Usama bin Mohammad bin Awad Bin Laden, legal endeavors, criminal activities, diaspora funding, funding from other countries and taking over legal and illegal exports to support their terrorist activities. In the 1980's, financial and military resources came from Pakistan, the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and other countries. Each country had their own vision for what Afghanistan should eventually evolve into, yet were united on a pressing, short-term issue: keep the Soviet Union out of the sub-continent.


Pakistan's leader, Zia-ul-Haq funded Afghani Islamic terrorist groups because he desired an Islamic led government in Afghanistan as opposed to a communist government (Galster, 1990). Pakistani aid included money, military instructors and the establishment of terrorist training camps, estimated by the Soviets in 1980 to number as many as 42 sites. They also transported arms, ammunition and food from Saudi Arabia and other countries across the border into Afghanistan (CWIHP, 2001, p. 71).


Iranian support to terrorist groups included rifles (M-1 and G-3), landmines, shoulder-fired antitank rockets, heavy machine guns, uniforms, and boots supplied to at least the Hezb-i-Islami (Islamic Party) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatiyar (DIA, n.d.). Iran also supported Shiite groups, such as Harakat-e Islami (Islamic Movement) in other regions of Afghanistan. Iran hosted 13 training camps for the Afghan terrorists (CWIHP, 2001, p. 71).


Approximately $3 billion (USD) in covert funding was funneled to Islamic terrorist forces by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 1980 and 1992 (Galster, 1990, Prados, 2001). As early as October 1980, the Soviet Union, in a secret communiqué, stated that "the Carter administration is seeking to unite the Afghan counterrevolution, promising its leaders that if they unite, they will receive unlimited help in the form of weapons and money" (CWIHP, 2001, p. 72). US aid included money, military instructors and the purchase and delivery of Russian and Chinese AK-47 rifles and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. Between 1984 and 1985, Swiss-designed Oerlikon anti-aircraft missiles and British-made Blowpipe anti-aircraft missiles were purchased and delivered to terrorist forces. In 1986 the CIA, under political pressure, broke their protocol of never providing US military equipment during covert operations, and began supplying U.S.-made Stinger missiles to rebel forces (Galster, 1990).


The US did not directly control the allocation of funds to terrorist forces. They relied on third-parties, such as Pakistan, to allocate the funds to the various terrorist organizations. Some analysts suggest that corruption and favoritism by Pakistani forces resulted in the allocation of a disproportionate share of US aid to the more brutal, militant and radical Islamic forces, such as Hezb-i-Islami (Party of Islam) (Galster, 1990).


The US felt, after the Soviets brought troops into Afghanistan, that it could deal with its own problems with Pakistan, such as their nuclear weapons program and human rights violations, by a close and supportive relationship with the Pakistani government (Elliot, 1985). The US also wished to re-establish ties with Iran, who were supporting Islamic Shiite factions in Afghanistan. The US also thought that by supporting Islamic terrorists they would not further alienate the new Islamic regime in Iran (Elliot, 1985; DIA, n.d.). Funds may have been raised and funneled to the terrorist forces by CIA sponsored groups such as the "Association of American Aid to Afghan Refugees," the "National Liberation Front of Afghanistan," the "Unity Council," and the "Committee for Solidarity in Organizing the Liberation of Afghanistan" (CWIHP, 2001, p. 72).


With financial capital at hand, the accumulation of terrorist forces was dependent on the number of disenfranchised civilians and a variety of drivers that convinced them to become terrorists. Identifying and specifying the drivers of accumulation of humans into a terrorist organization is essential to slowing or stopping the inflow. Terrorist organizational structures, incentives, marketing, and word of mouth effects drive the conversion of potential terrorists into terrorists.


In general, the organizational structure of the terrorist group, its position (opportunistic, ideological or mixed) and assets will largely determine the marketing approach it takes towards recruiting. In situations where individuals cannot sustain basic needs and a terrorist organization offers relief from this crisis, resistance to recruitment is low. According to Messer, conflict and child malnutrition are closely correlated (2000, p. 4). Children and adolescents in civil wars are often prime recruits for terrorist organizations because their alternatives (dislocation, homelessness and starvation) are so depressing. Many opportunistic terrorist and rebel groups utilize child labor because they are disenfranchised and easily recruited (Andvig, 1999). Child and adolescent exposure to terrorist training can generate highly adept adult terrorists. While selection pressures reduce the numbers of young terrorists through death, imprisonment or abandonment of the terrorist ideology, some eventually accumulate as either very lucky adult terrorists or highly-skilled adult terrorists who are adept at striking and disappearing.


Adults joining a terrorist organization weigh the benefits and risks of their participation. Leaders must create incentives to recruit and retain their members. Incentives might include salaries, the free or low-cost use of key goods and services and intangible incentives such as social stature, power and feelings of self-worth. If the relative value of joining the terrorist organization outweighs the relative value of a person's current and anticipated future situation, then it increases the rate of flow of terrorist recruits. Simplistically, if it pays more to be a terrorist than a farmer (through access to food, salaries, profits from criminal activities, etc.) then it's more likely that a person will become a terrorist.


According to Soviet documents, "under the direction of American, Chinese, Pakistani and Egyptian instructors . . . between July 1978 until November 1979, the training of not less than 15,000 individuals was carried out there [Pakistan]" (CWIHP, 2001, p. 72). Terrorist groups experienced consistent growth after 1980 (CIA, 1985). This is not surprising considering the assets that the terrorist forces were receiving. According to Rashid, more than 35,000 Muslim radicals were recruited (including Bin Laden) between 1982 and 1992 from 43 Islamic countries to fight for the terrorist forces against the Soviets (quoted in Jones, 2001). Sixty thousand rebels were trained in Pakistan in 1980 with help from American, Chinese, Pakistani, and Egyptian instructors (CWIHP, 2001). The CIA estimated that by 1986 there were 30,000 full-time radical Islamic terrorists and 120,000 part-time terrorists to bring the total number of terrorists to 150,000 (DIA, 1983; CIA, 1988).


By 1985, terrorists in Afghanistan had reached an estimated 150,000 in numbers.

Aid to the terrorists continued into the 90's allowing them to grow more quickly than they might have otherwise. This number includes both moderate Islamic groups and terrorists groups who fought together against the Soviets. Yet, the evidence suggests that the majority of funds were channeled to terrorists both in Afghanistan and in other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. Interestingly, before September 11th, 2001, Rashid wrote that "none of the intelligence agencies involved wanted to consider the consequence of bringing together thousands of Islamic radicals from all over the world, American citizens only woke up to the consequences when Afghanistan-trained Islamic militants blew up the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993" (Rashid, 2000).


The differences between ideological and opportunistic groups affect how awards are allocated and distributed amongst a population (Collier, 1999). For example, an ideologically oriented terrorist organization might reward their recruits with feelings of belonging to a greater cause, rather than financial incentives resulting from salaries or looting. In 1980's Afghanistan, it appears that people joined terrorist forces for reasons that were both ideological (Islamic zealotry combined with a desire to transform Afghanistan into a theocratic state) and opportunistic (for common people the need to protect their farms, for tribal warlords the opportunity to create personal fiefdoms). The Afghan terrorist groups "generally share a tradition of opposition to central government authority, a hatred of the Soviets, a desire to preserve local customs, a culture that glorifies warfare, and an interest in the profits to be made from guerrilla fighting" (CIA: The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, 1999, p. 1).


From spring to fall, legitimate economic activity primarily included farmers and herders tending their crops and animals. The severe and oppressive tactics of the DRA and the Soviets, rapidly rising inflation, decreasing agricultural productivity due to the ongoing war, and wartime shortages, resulted in more part-time terrorists becoming full-time terrorists (Dupree, 1989; CIA, 1983). That is, ongoing conflict coupled with economic privation can increase the flow of conversion of civilians into terrorists resulting in an increase in the numbers of terrorists. So, initial decreases in terrorist forces from kill tactics are counteracted by a concomitant increase in the flow rates that drive terrorist accumulation.


Terrorists received extensive training in military tactics and strategy and were provided manuals in written form. Foreign personnel were also training terrorists in propaganda and marketing. Terrorists participated in training camps in and out of Afghanistan. In October 2001, an 11-volume "Manual of Afghan Jihad," - a how-to guide to what it calls the "basic rules of sabotage and destruction" was discovered. Each volume, ranging from 250 to 500 pages, is written in Arabic, with occasional indexes in English (AP, 2001). It seems likely that terrorists’ forces learned the skills to make these highly technical military volumes during their training in the 1980's. These are long-lived resources that continue to yield dividends year after year in the form of highly-trained terrorists.


In Afghanistan, marketing communications to potential terrorists was handled in a variety of ways. Religious schools throughout the Middle East identified Muslims interested in helping the Afghan terrorists and sent them for training at camps. At these camps, they received extensive and cutting-edge military training from US personnel or from instructors trained by US personnel (CWIHP, 2001). Further, to broadcast their message to as wide an audience as possible, the terrorists employed public relations techniques to enhance the coverage of their cause throughout the world. They accomplished this, in part, with the support of the United States Information Agency and Boston University's School of Communications, under the direction of bi-partisan support in Congress. The radical Islamists received training on effective tactics for marketing their cause using television and newspapers (Galster, 2001).


Word of mouth is potentially a very powerful positive feedback loop between committed loyalists and newcomers. Positive word of mouth regarding terrorist wins, income and achievement of ideological objectives can rapidly escalate the number of terrorists. While word of mouth effects can draw people to the "cause", it can also work in the opposite direction. In 1985, the CIA reported that the Afghan Army was losing 30,000 of their 50,000 soldiers every year (CIA: The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, 1999, p.9). Many of these deserters took their Soviet supplied military equipment and joined with the terrorist forces. As a result, the Soviet sponsored Afghan Army was constantly expending resources trying to maintain their conscript army.


It is intangibles such as fear, anger, greed, religiosity, morale, cohesion and forgiveness that drive humans to change their situation, to perhaps flee an area during a conflict situation or join a terrorist organization. In conflict situations, the stocks of fear and anger can rise quickly as the frequency and severity of oppression increases resulting in the loss of basic human rights. Basic human rights, as outlined by the United Nations, are consistently violated in Afghanistan and have been for decades. Acts that limit a person's access to basic rights, in some cases for generations, are reflected in statistics such as high infant mortality rates, which has hovered around 16% in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion.


After the Soviet invasion, GDP per capita fell precipitously in Afghanistan. During the 1980's and during the terrorist in-fighting from 1992 to 1996, terrorist leaders made more money from cultivation of poppies than from any legal crop they could possibly grow in Afghanistan. This money was in addition to the covert money they received from various countries as well as humanitarian aid money that they diverted into their personal bank accounts. Despite the billions of dollars flowing into Afghanistan over the past 20 years, the vast majority of people's economic lives have not improved dramatically leading to a Faustian choice: cultivate poppies or starve.


The Soviets and terrorist forces prolifically used landmines, laying millions along strategic borders, highways, and around major cities. Mines and unexploded ordinance kill and maim thousands of Afghani civilians every year, especially during periods of conflict when people are fleeing. Various estimates indicate that between 90,000 and 400,000 casualties occurred since 1979. There is no data available on an year to year basis. The actual numbers may be significantly larger as the Land Mine Monitor indicates that as many as 50% of people die before every reaching a hospital or first aid station, where they would then be included in the data. In addition to the toll on humans, thousands of animals are killed or maimed, a serious blow to any herdsman. According to the Journal of Mine Action, "when an animal is lost to a landmine, the economic consequences can be devastating" (Lokey, 2002). A study by the VVAF in Afghanistan found that landmines have killed 75,563 animals crucial to livelihood. Another survey of 949 villages by the MCPA determined that landmines killed 361,135 animals such as camels, horses, goats and cows since the beginning of the war in the early 1980s. Landmines are also deadly when people try to return home. They are an extremely long-lived resource that is easy to bring into a conflict situation (inflow is very high), but it is expensive, time-consuming and difficult to remove them (outflow is low). As of 2001, 224 million square meters of mined area in Afghanistan had been cleared and an additional 723 million square meters identified as requiring mine clearing activities.


Refugees are an outflow of a countries population and are the result of economic privation, long-lasting conflicts, human rights violations and war. The number of people fleeing Afghanistan during times of conflict and returning during times of 'peace' is staggering. It is estimated that at the end of the war between the DRA and the Islamic terrorists, 6 million refuges fled the country. It was estimated by the UN that 1.5 million returned home in 1992 and another 2 million in 1993, including 60,000 Tajik refugees from the former Soviet Union that joined with Massoud's Tajik forces (Ali, 1993; Chabake, 2002). The irony is what they returned home to find. Most found homes and farms devastated, land unusable, or discovered that someone else now occupied their land. Bob Drogan wrote in the Los Angles Times, on April 27, 1993, that "with their country in ruins, many Afghans are back to cultivate a crop that needs little water or fertilizer ­ poppies" (Ali, p.52 1993). In 1992, the number of refugees began decreasing at the same time that the Mujahidin Civil War began; non-combatant Afghan people fled the country during the Soviet Invasion, but returned during the Civil War to re-join their tribes.


Statistics on GDP per capita, infant mortality, landmine casualties, kills, injuries, and refugee outflows can be used as proxies for the frequency and severity of oppression in a given area. They provide policymakers an idea of how quickly the stock of anger is accumulating in a given population. With no outlet for their anger through a reprieve, conflict management, improved living conditions or even forgiveness, the stock of anger reaches peak levels. As the stock of anger increases, the "terrorist recruitment rate" is increased; people angry with their oppressors (whether real or perceived) are more likely to join a terrorist organization. The terrorist forces in Afghanistan were (and are) able to maintain a steady fighting force despite losses partly because of the large potential pool of recruits available in the form of refugees. If it was possible to determine the accumulated anger of a population, it might be possible to estimate the increase in the number of terrorist. That is, we suggest that anger and other intangibles are motivating drivers in the rate of flow of civilians to terrorists.

The growth of terrorists during the Soviet/Afghani conflict demonstrates the power of external military intervention on increasing the growth of terrorists; the more damage the Soviets inflicted, the more terrorists were generated. While Afghanistan has received multilateral humanitarian aid, it has not proved effective in ending conflict or improving the lives of the Afghanis. The country is adrift with internally displaced persons, cyclical refugee flows, human rights violations and a long history of warring factions. Decreasing the stock of anger requires that humanitarian aid be an integral part of military efforts.


Military operations to hunt down and kill terrorists result in both military and civilian causalities. They prevent a population from living in peace and result in both intended and unintended (and often undesirable) consequences. The attacks force the population to flee the area and prevent them from engaging in normal activities. Dislocation and hunger increases anger against the invading force. More humans will join the terrorist forces. Historical evidence suggests that initial combat 'victories' against Islamic terrorists may only be short-term and over the long-term will only further exacerbate the problem by increasing the stock of anger and increasing the inflow of new terrorists.


In highly autocratic governments where dissidence is not tolerated, empirical data suggests that terrorist groups are usually stopped within a short timeframe (Elbadawi, 2000). This is likely due to rapid and extreme actions to suppress the growth of terrorist forces. The autocratic government's actions do not address the root causes of terrorism, for example, by decreasing the stock of anger or other intangibles that drive recruitment. They prevent the terrorist forces from growing by imprisoning or killing terrorists and decreasing the ability of terrorist organizations to openly market the cause to potential recruits. If, however, the terrorists fighting highly autocratic regimes receive unilateral support in the form of military, economic or mixed assistance from external parties, the war's duration is lengthened (Elbadawi, 2000). Presumably, the terrorist groups are able to use these external resources to enhance their ability to recruit soldiers to the cause, thereby growing faster than the autocratic government's ability to respond. Thus, terrorists located in highly autocratic governments like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia might be eliminated by covertly supporting the government's heavy-handed efforts and shutting down the terrorists’ access to financial capital.


The strategy of seizing the terrorist's financial assets does decrease the terrorist organizations ability to effectively market and offer lucrative incentive structures, thereby slowing the net inflow of new recruits. Yet, the Soviet's attempted this strategy and failed. Radical Islamists around the world will increase their covert funding to terrorists to compensate for these seizures. Sympathizers from other countries will join the cause. This will increase financial and military assets and the numbers of humans joining terrorist forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia and other conflict prone parts of the world. New terrorists will replace those terrorists killed during combat activities or covert operations. This is in line with what happened during the Soviet invasion. Even if future military actions are significantly more aggressive and successful than the Soviet's attacks, terrorist forces may decrease initially, only to rebound later.


Any strategies or tactics designed to reduce terrorist recruitment and development must either stem the in-flow of people, arms, money, etc. into the system, or enhance the outflow of these same items away from the system. Many of the terrorist's assets and human forces built up in the 1980's are still around. Radical Islamists have an ideology and agenda that is not in line with democratic thinking. Providing radical militant Islamists with money, sophisticated military equipment, ammunition and excellent training was, is and never will be in the long-term interest of the Earth. An M-1, AK-47 or Stinger missile acquired by a terrorist organization in 1985 is exactly as relevant today as an identical gun acquired yesterday. If every historical period's inflows are equally relevant, then every historical period's value of any causal factor that may drive that in-flow is also equally relevant. Thus, the destruction of a village in 1985 by the Soviets that caused a bitter, angry and zealous young man to join a terrorist group to receive US-sponsored training may still be reflected in the fact that this individual is still in the organization and is now fighting against the United States (most likely as a terrorist leader). If that event had not occurred, then that individual would not have joined, and every consequence of his membership would not have arisen.


For governments and agencies primarily concerned with peacemaking and peacekeeping, eliminating the issues that cause people to join terrorist groups is crucial to ensuring peace. That is, policymakers must focus on alleviating human rights violations. If this does not happen, then the stock of intangibles such as anger will rise creating an environment well suited to the recruitment of terrorists.


If the rate of growth of a terrorist group is significantly faster than policymakers' ability to respond, then there are only two ways to manage the situation: (1) improve the policymaker's early warning indicator system so that their response rate is quicker or, once a crisis is acknowledged, (2) focus efforts on slowing the growth rate of the terrorist group ­ the in-flow of terrorist recruits -- rather than focusing efforts on increasing the out-flow of terrorists through military attacks designed to kill the terrorists. Ideally, agencies should both improve their early warning systems and work to ensure that the in-flow of terrorists stays low. On a strategic and operational level, policymakers can track these resources and create a 'score-card' by which to monitor emerging trends that foreshadow crisis that would accelerate the recruitment of terrorists.


According to the Interagency Review of U.S. Government Civilian Humanitarian & Transition Programs report, ". . . major foreign policy challenges typically feature, at their very center, complex humanitarian emergencies that demand coherence in [US] policy response." Diplomatic, political and military actions must be coordinated on a global scale to effectively address the root causes of terrorism. In analyzing complex situations it is vital to have the voices of military strategy, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid heard equally. Historically, without adequate humanitarian aid, military solutions in Afghanistan have proven a short-term fix that creates a fertile ground for future discontent and recruitment of terrorists. Without globally coordinated actions, governments and agencies with overlapping or competing mandates undermine each other's efforts.


Creating a SSA identifies distinct states for each resource, and thus captures the development path for each component in the terrorist organization - conversion of civilians into terrorists, accumulation of ordinance and financial capital, etc. This provides a deeper understanding of how the system's behavior changes over time and the impact that alternative interventions may have on its evolution. Decisions on the scale, allocation and timing of any intervention in such a complex and interdependent system are far from trivial.


  • Human intuition is ill-equipped to estimate how isolated resources respond to rates of change (e.g., if the weapon-increase rate were to halve, what stock of weapons would be present at a defined time in the future).




  • The interdependencies make estimation challenging (e.g., if terrorist forces were to double in number, and their financial resources were to be halved, by how much would the rate of terrorist activity be expected to change).




  • Changes will continually be taking place to the range of factors involved, with new issues rising in influence as others fall in importance.




  • The variety of individuals involved in decision-making processes is likely to hold different mental models regarding which of these multifarious factors are most relevant, and how they interact.


Under such circumstances, decision-making based on qualitative debate is unlikely to be error-free. Experience in corporate strategy-making (where similar considerations apply, though rarely with such complexity), has been somewhat shocking - decisions are frequently in error by large factors, sometimes orders-of-magnitude.


Naturally, with any network as complex, messy and subtle as a terrorist organization, data is most unlikely to be accurate on many factors, or even available. This is not unusual; even in apparently clear corporate cases. However, the problem of lack of data does not destroy the value of a SSA.


First, the SSA diagram clarifies how the various agencies involved in the situation perceive it to operate - any alternative understandings can be made explicit, shared, and their implications explored. Secondly, decisions are being made in any case - presumably on the basis of some implicit assumptions regarding likely consequences. All we are doing is providing a crystal-clear exposition of these beliefs by participants. This not only offers a means of assessing the advisability of their choices, but also provides a living scorecard that can incorporate emerging intelligence and cumulatively improve insight.


Note, too, that our emphasis with policymakers is on helping them construct a diagrammatic, yet fact-based, (as far as possible), 'model' of their situation. This alone often enables confident, agreed policy choices to be made. However, it is possible, and often highly desirable, to test options and validate these choices by building and exploring a dynamic, mathematical, computer-based simulation of the strategic simulation architecture. Professional software tools exist to accomplish this purpose. However, may simulation modeling efforts go badly wrong, and we strongly urge that policymakers stay in control of the quantified, diagrammatic strategic simulation architecture.


By building a SSA, policymakers not only help gain an overall understanding of the different resources within the situation but also how they interact over time. Unlike many approaches however the SSA is flexible and allows for adaptation and extension as the dynamics of the situation change. A SSA seeks to and achieves the explicit quantified representation of intangibles and their often-significant impact on the tangibles.


By fostering a greater understanding of where policy decisions or uncontrollable external influences will impact the key flow rates we can simulate the impact of various alternative occurrences into the future. The ease with which an increase or decrease of the accumulation of a resource can be related to all parts of the SSA enables decision makers not only to test scenarios and sensitivity but also conduct pilot tests to check on strategies before blanket roll-out. These are important as they may determine the minimum resource required to make the desired impact. We find that strategies often fail to deliver because the initial resources allocated to achieving the objectives are woefully short. Spreading resources thinly over several engagements may actually lead to not achieving success in any, whilst selective placements may have been more productive.


Once created at a high level of abstraction, pieces of the SSA can be drilled into by specialists to help develop tactical plans on the ground. This is further enhanced by the 'building block' construction of the SSA, which enables it to be easily communicated and understood.


Our vision is that a strategic simulation architecture could be "on the wall," starting from the early stages of operations, so that planners may explore questions such as the size and make-up of likely forces, the tasks they would be allocated and the conditions under which, and by when, it would be "possible" to exit the situation.
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