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  • Who must be killed to beat ISIS and al Qaeda?

    CNN - 07/27/2015

    Analysts and historians of terrorism are divided on the effectiveness of “leadership decapitation” — an approach that has been at the heart of the Obama Administration’s policy through the widespread use of armed drones. Max Abrahms, who studies terrorism at Northeastern University, says the aversion to putting boots on the ground and the growing technological prowess of drones has made targeted killings the “cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.”

    In theory, he says, it ought to work by degrading the quality of a group’s members and thus its threat. But Abrahms told CNN the “strategy has been quite disappointing because the theory behind leadership decapitation overlooks an important point: replacements are seldom more moderate than their former leaders.”

    In an article to be published in the journal “Terrorism and Political Violence,” Abrahms and economics researcher Jochen Mierau argue that militant groups may become even more extreme by shifting their violence from military to civilian targets. So taking out the leaders of a terror group may actually breed greater mayhem, at least in the short term.


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