For a budding al-Qaida operative, marriage has its advantages. Married members earn 6,500 Pakistani rupee per month and 700 rupee for each additional wife. They also receive a week’s vacation every three weeks. By comparison, bachelors receive only 1000 rupee and five days’ vacation for the month. The Combating Terrorism Center shared this interesting aspect of the enemy at a recent briefing in Tampa. Lt. Colonel Joseph Felter, the center’s director, explained that al-Qaida utilizes an employment contract for recruits. It addresses benefits and pay but also demands sworn allegiance.
The CTC analyzes and uses intelligence like seized documents to help understand the enemy. The center was established at West Point after the 9/11 attacks to help future leaders understand and respond to terrorist threats. Close to a thousand cadets in each class become commissioned army lieutenants who will use this knowledge in their roles as battlefield leaders.
In addition to educating future officers, the center provides research and policy expertise to leaders in other organizations and agencies like the New York police and fire departments, the port authority and the FBI. The center provided a comprehensive education initiative for the leadership of the FBI to help transform the agency and how it approaches terrorism.
“The local cop on the street these days needs to know and understand his enemy in a way he’s never had to before,” Felter said. The center also trains foreign military officers. “The cadets today have to be a lot more sophisticated than any of us,” said Felter. Those taking terrorism studies “learn policy and decision making in class, but they also go down to meet the decision makers in Washington,” like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The military strategy during the Cold War has evolved to address a very different enemy today, one that hides among civilians, often in remote areas, and thrives in unstable environments. Nonetheless, the military tenet of knowing your enemy is as relevant now as it was against Stalin and Mao.
“More intelligence. That’s what you need to fight this war, the best intelligence,” replied CentCom’s command chief master sergeant, Curtis Brownhill, when asked in an interview with the Tribune how he would spend additional funds. The United States needs to understand the enemy and employ a smaller, more effective force with that knowledge. Much criticism of the war focuses on the lack of knowledge about the enemy; who is he, where does he live, what motivates him? The CTC knows a lot about him and has considerable reach in both military and nonmilitary organizations.
As an independent, privately funded organization, the CTC has access to both military and academic communities. Many of the world’s leading thinkers and Islamic scholars who are hesitant to deal with a military agency work openly with West Point as an academic institution. They work with academic staff members like Felter, a West Point graduate who has a master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford.
No another private institution has such access to military documents. The military’s Special Operations Command asks the center to analyze captured documents because it’s a trusted organization with a unique relationship to the military. It’s not surprising that the center has one of the largest collections of primary source documents on terrorism in the country.
Reports and publications from the center are used in the classroom and are available on the center’s Web site. Other institutions are taking the curriculum and textbooks and starting terrorism studies programs around the country and the world.
Dr. Jarret Brachman, the research director, talked about a project that’s the first of its kind in an information age battlefield. “Let the jihadis themselves tell us who they are” is the premise. Al-Qaida use computers, they’re online, they rely on the Web for communication, especially because they are so decentralized and fragmented. So the center tracks actual downloads and online activity of key Web sites. Through this research, the center is able to identify major thought leaders and analyze weaknesses in their movement.
It has been five years since that fateful and sad day in September 2001. Since then, there has not been another incident on U.S. soil, in part due to the efforts of organizations like the Combating Terrorism Center.
“Every day we don’t have an attack is a victory,” Felter said.MyLinh Shattan is a contributor to The Tampa Tribune. She served as an Army officer in Western Europe after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point.