TSG IntelBrief: Recent unsophisticated attacks by individuals or very small groups of people have achieved what the original core of al-Qaeda (AQ) has failed to achieve for almost a decade: each of these lone wolves or wolf packs conducted a “spectacular” — the term AQ also used to describe a devastating attack along the lines of 9/11, the Madrid train bombing, or the London Tube attacks. The new attackers achieved this by simply changing the definition of “spectacular,” applying it to the reaction instead of the attack itself. The focus has shifted from a high casualty count to a high response count. These attacks involve planning but relatively little skill, and are never judged to be failures, meaning they are ripe for copycats.
How this came about is the result of the merging of several terrorism and geopolitical trend lines over recent years. To be certain, explosives remain the tactic of choice for terrorists in weak-state areas such as Yemen, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, or places that border theses areas, such as northern Lebanon and southern Turkey. But in places with well-established counterterrorism (CT) and law enforcement capabilities, the trend is to avoid plots that involve complicated steps such as mixing, preparing, and transporting explosives in favor of small arms attacks that are extremely difficult to detect or deter and that result in inordinately large responses and reactions. [Continue reading…]