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Security Terrorism

Counterinsurgency in the Modern Age: An Interview with Bruce Hoffman

Boko Haram Acryl Painting, courtesy Debora Bogaerts/flickr

This interview transcript was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 19 February 2016.

Looking at other terrorist groups that we have seen, what makes the command structure of ISIS different from Al-Qaeda or others?

I do not think that it is that different. I think that because in several iterations it is a variant of Al-Qaeda to begin with, it has a very similar structure as Al-Qaeda. It has the same sort of melding of theological justification with operational command, finance, outreach, media. I think the problem that we are finding with this decade as opposed to the previous one is that the learning curve of terrorist groups has shrunk, and in that sense, Baghdadi [of ISIS] has been able to put together an operational structure that perhaps has existed with other groups. So, as facile and unsophisticated as governance by ISIS over the territory it controls may be, it is still governing them even though it has had no preparation. These people are not trained bureaucrats, with the exception of some former Saddamists, but Baghdadi has learned from the mistakes of previous terrorist groups, which has made the group more formidable.