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Dynamic Attenuation: Terrorism, Transnational Crime and the Role of the US Army Special Forces

NCJ Number
Global Crime Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 345-365
Chad Serena
Date Published
November 2007
21 pages
The article analyses the ability of the U.S. Army Special Forces to combat illicit criminal and terrorist networks through dynamic attenuation.
The findings suggest that in conjunction with host-nation governments and with the support of the U.S. Government, Special Forces are a fairly even match for criminal/terrorist organizations. The strengths and weaknesses of both organizations roughly balance out. Additionally, through a deliberate process of detection utilizing United States and host-nation assets, network structure and ties can be assessed and attenuated accordingly. The goal of the United States and other international organizations (IOs) is to degrade the effectiveness of criminal organizations in achieving their missions; whether this mission is profit or terror, dynamic attenuation offers a plausible solution to achieving this goal. Regardless of the environment or the organization targeted, any process, irrespective of the name, that keeps criminal or terrorist organizations from achieving goals, disrupts their resource gathering, and disturbs the relationships of individuals and between groups is likely to be as effective as or more effective than past efforts that focused on killing and/or capturing individuals. Increasing the use of the capabilities provided by the Special Forces in this process is a logical progression. A process of dynamic attenuation, where network ties, and not the actors in the network, are targeted should replace the current United States strategy of killing or capturing criminal agents threatening United States interests. By dynamically attenuating instead of destroying the ties between and among criminal actors and criminal organizations, the United States can effectively reduce the capability of criminal and terrorist organizations to operate and achieve their missions. The assessment was developed and substantiated by assessing the environments where criminal networks thrive, the characteristics of criminal networks, the utility of targeting networks instead of individual actors, and through a comparison of criminal organizations’ and U.S. Army Special Forces’ strengths and weaknesses.