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97622. Terrorism Expert Sounds Battle Cry


By Douglas J. Gillert

American Forces Press Service



	SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Terrorists in the years ahead will 

become less politically motivated and more attuned to religious, 

fanatical zealotry. Less concerned than ever about international 

repercussions, they will seek ways to reap mass casualties on an 

unprepared public. The United States will most often be their 

target.

	Peter Probst, a specialist on international terrorism with 

DoD's special operations and low-intensity conflict office, made 

these predictions during the 1997 DoD anti-terrorism conference 

here. Probst said the nature of terrorism is changing 

fundamentally, and DoD's approach to countering terrorists must 

undergo similar changes.

	Because it's effective and cheap -- and sponsorship can be 

easily disguised or denied -- terrorism increasingly will be the 

weapon of choice for extremists, Probst said. Political terrorism 

is declining, he said, supplanted by religiously motivated 

terrorist acts -- and the change spells trouble.

	"In contrast to their politically motivated counterparts, 

terrorist groups or cults motivated by religious ideology exhibit 

few self-imposed restraints," Probst said. "They actively seek to 

maximize the carnage, believing that only by annihilating their 

enemy they may fulfill the dictates of their guru or god."

	This difference of perspective affects terrorists' choice of 

targets and weapons. "Religious zealotry creates the will to 

carry out mass casualty attacks, and proliferation provides the 

means," Probst said. "This marriage of will and means has forever 

changed the face of terrorism."

	Whereas truck bombs have been the weapon of choice in 

several major terrorist incidents, Probst sees that changing. He 

said he fears DoD won't change correspondingly.

	"We have not been very good at anticipating change," he 

said, "and once we have identified change, we have not proved 

very adept at developing an effective response." The time will 

come, he said, when U.S. countermeasures will make truck bomb 

attacks too difficult or too costly. But terrorists are adaptable 

and will soon find a new approach, he said.

	While anti-terrorist analysts look at this eventuality, they 

tend to focus "beyond the perimeter fence, on some sort of stand-

off attack using exotic weaponry," Probst said. Instead, he said, 

planners should focus on an inside-the-fence threat that could 

come from the very people DoD employs to make up rooms, serve 

food, groom lawns and perform other such services at overseas 

installations.

	"Such workers may be recruited from the local population or 

provided by large contract firms," Probst said. The latter 

category often is made up of third-country nationals whom "we 

know little or nothing about," he said. "At best, the contracting 

firm may have done cursory [background] checks."

	It's possible terrorists could infiltrate installations 

through such contracts, Probst said. A single terrorist could 

conceal a toxic agent such as anthrax in as small an object as a 

cigarette, then, when nobody's looking, poison the iced tea or 

Kool-Aid that sits at the end of the counter in the cafeteria.

	Biological and chemical agents could become terrorists' new 

weapons of choice, Probst said, because they are easy to conceal 

and would cause mass casualties. And the terrorist would be long 

gone by the time symptoms begin to appear, he said.

	Such tactical use of biological weapons could easily gain 

strategic value for terrorists, Probst said. "If 50 or 100 of our 

[people] at some remote installation in some Third World country 

came down with this unknown condition, we would air-evac them as 

quickly as possible. But what would happen if simultaneously our 

terrorist group alerted the major wire services that they'd 

carried out an attack against 'the Great Satan' ... and would 

similarly strike against any country that permitted our aircraft 

to land or offered us any form of assistance? What started out as 

a tactical attack very quickly might develop strategic overtones 

and implications."

	Terrorists will try to have a major impact on U.S. policy 

because they've enjoyed past success, Probst said. "We should all 

remember that one driver in one suicide attack against our 

Marines in Beirut turned American policy 180 degrees and drove 

the greatest world power out of Lebanon," he said.

	Probst said he doesn't think the United States can defeat 

terrorism by relying on old thinking and methodology. "To rely 

predominantly on a group's historical record as a predictor of 

future behavior is to court disaster," he said. "If the 

demonstrated capabilities of terrorist organizations remain the 

primary criteria for anti-terrorism planning, we will continue to 

be reactive in our thinking. We will be much less likely to 

anticipate change and much more likely to be blindsided." 

	Instead, DoD should take several new approaches to 

countering terrorism, Probst said. First, the military should 

send mock terrorist "red teams" against its own installations to 

identify and pinpoint vulnerabilities, he said. "To assume that 

terrorists are aware of vulnerabilities and won't exploit them is 

dangerously unrealistic," he said. "It's far better that the red 

team [identifies weaknesses] and perhaps [causes] some 

embarrassment than to leave that task for the terrorists." 

	Next, he suggested formation of an anti-terrorism institute. 

To effectively fight fanatical terrorists and better anticipate 

changes in tactics and targets, Probst said, it's necessary to 

understand "what makes your adversary tick. What does he fear? 

What does he value? What are the demons that drive him? And most 

important, how can we best exploit that knowledge?

	"To provide such insights, we need to be able to draw on the 

knowledge of social psychologists, cultural anthropologists, 

linguists and historians, as well as experts in crosscultural 

communication." Gathered in an institute dedicated to 

understanding terrorism, such individuals would identify trends 

and potential threats and develop new tactics, strategies and 

policy initiatives to combat terrorism, he said.

	Finally, he suggested formation of operational teams, 

tailored to meet a specific terrorist challenge. Such teams would 

include the FBI, CIA and DoD, he said. "But depending on the 

nature of the problem, [a team] could also include experts in 

exotic languages, covert actions, applied psychology, information 

warfare and whatever other specific skills might be needed to 

neutralize the threat. After resolving the threat, the team would 

disband.

	"Such teams would operate transnationally, just as the 

terrorists do," Probst said. "They would not be bound by 

bureaucratic considerations or turf issues."

	Probst said such approaches to terrorism "must increasingly 

become the norm, if we are to maximize the effective use of our 

resources and hunt the terrorists to ground."



 

 



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