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Future Trends in Terrorism

As a conflict method that has survived and evolved through several millennia to flourish in the modern information age, terrorism continues to adapt to meet the challenges of emerging forms of conflict, and exploit developments in technology and society. Terrorism has demonstrated increasing abilities to adapt to counter-terrorism measures and political failure. Terrorists are developing new capabilities of attack and improving the efficiency of existing methods. Additionally, terrorist groups have shown significant progress in escaping from a subordinate role in nation-state conflicts, and becoming prominent as international influences in their own right. They are becoming more integrated with other sub-state entities, such as criminal organizations and legitimately chartered corporations, and are gradually assuming a measure of control and identity with national governments.

Adaptive Capabilities of Terror Groups
Terrorists have shown the ability to adapt to the techniques and methods of counter-terror agencies and intelligence organizations over the long term. The decentralization of the network form of organization is an example of this. Adopted to reduce the disruption caused by the loss of key links in a chain of command, a network organization also complicates the tasks of security forces, and reduces predictability of operations.

Terrorists have also been quick to use new technologies, and adapt existing ones to their uses. The debate over privacy of computer data was largely spurred by the specter of terrorists planning and communicating with encrypted data beyond law enforcement's ability to intercept or decode this data. To exchange information, terrorists have exploited disposable cellular phones, over the counter long-distance calling cards, Internet cafes, and other means of anonymous communications. Embedding information in digital pictures and graphics is another innovation employed to enable the clandestine global communication that modern terrorists require.

Terrorists have also demonstrated significant resiliency after disruption by counter-terrorist action. Some groups have redefined themselves after being defeated or being forced into dormancy. The Shining Path of Peru (Sendero Luminosa) lost its leadership cadre and founding leader to counter-terrorism efforts by the Peruvian government in 1993. The immediate result was severe degradation in the operational capabilities of the group. However, the Shining Path has returned to rural operations and organization in order to reconstitute itself. Although not the threat that it was, the group remains in being, and could exploit further unrest or governmental weakness in Peru to continue its renewal.

In Italy, the Red Brigades (Brigate Rossi) gradually lapsed into inactivity due to governmental action and a changing political situation. However, a decade after the supposed demise of the Red Brigades, a new group called the Anti-Capitalist Nuclei emerged exhibiting a continuity of symbols, styles of communiqués, and potentially some personnel from the original Red Brigade organization. This ability to perpetuate ideology and symbology during a significant period of dormancy, and re-emerge under favorable conditions demonstrates the durability of terrorism as a threat to modern societies.

Increasing Capabilities of Terrorists
Terrorists are improving their sophistication and abilities in virtually all aspects of their operations and support. The aggressive use of modern technology for information management, communication and intelligence has increased the efficiency of these activities. Weapons technology has become more increasingly available, and the purchasing power of terrorist organizations is on the rise. The ready availability of both technology and trained personnel to operate it for any client with sufficient cash allows the well-funded terrorist to equal or exceed the sophistication of governmental counter-measures.

Likewise, due to the increase in information outlets, and competition with increasing numbers of other messages, terrorism now requires a greatly increased amount of violence or novelty to attract the attention it requires. The tendency of major media to compete for ratings and the subsequent revenue realized from increases in their audience size and share produces pressures on terrorists to increase the impact and violence of their actions to take advantage of this sensationalism.

Today, most experts believe that certain parts of the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan are turning out to be the main power centers for terrorism. Decades of lawlessness and corruption have seen Islamic terrorist groups fill the power vaccum in this region and continue to turn out an alarming number of religiously motivated terrorists.

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