Counter-terrorism // asymetrical Warfare


May 18, 2011
Montreal, Canada

I have a couple questions for you today, I'll have separate thread just to maintain focus.

The first one is a question I have regarding the crossing point between asymetrical warfare and counter terrorism.

Counter terrorism was dealt by elite group for a while (French GIGN, Seals, SAS, Mossad etc...)and their learnings and trainings were fit for those kind of events (Stable environment, isolated event etcc.).
Then came international terrrorism, and basically counter terrorism became a warfare "technic". Spec Ops were now exporting their learnings and craft of counter terrorism became proxy war and asymetrical warfare.

Is there a "Crossing" point in time that could be seen as the real shift between the two? My guess would be post 9/11 war on terror, but I may be missing some other elements... (ie. Iranian Embassy events etc...).

What would be the main differences between asymetrical warfare and counter terrorism in our days?

To me - CT and Asymmetrical warfare do not really correlate.

CT is a specific technique and training doctrine that has been created, reworked, and perfected in order to combat the growing threat of international terrorism. Alot of units in Iraq and Afghanistan are out there hunting both terrorists and insurgents. My unit was tasked with raids targeting Al-Qaeda in Iraq - does that make us a CT unit? Absolutely NOT.

CT to me is a proactive and reactive strategy. Whether it be a hostage rescue mission AFTER the terrorist event, or a site-security mission assessing the vulnarability of lets say an embassy BEFORE a terrorist event - both fall under counter terrorism. A military action raid against a terrorist is not counter terrorism.

The fact that you specifically are asking about when the shift happened after 9/11 is really because the terrorists entered the open battlefield (Iraq, Afghanistan, HOA, Philippines, etc) and not the shadowlands (hiding out in a Muslim neighborhood in London planning some market bomb).

As for Asymmetrical warfare, it is simply warfare in which the military strength of both combatants differ significantly in terms of capabilities and strength. Although technically you could consider the fight between terrorists and the US military as an asymmetrical war. It really isn't. Asymmetrical warfare in recent times includes us against the Taliban, us against the Iraqi insurgency. Conventional forces against guerilla forces.

Here is a point to think about - Imagine if the only troops on the ground in Iraq were some specific SOF forces. And all they did was wear hajj garb and sneak around in the dark watching and attacking the same Iraqi insurgents we have been used to all these years. What kind of war would this be?
Orpheo, you do understand that "Asymmetric warefare" has been around since the dawn of time, we only put a name to it just recently....kind of like we did for "serial killers?"

I think dknob's first sentnce hit it on the head: CT and asymmetric warfare aren't the same. A midfielder or goalie aren't a soccer team, you know?
thanks dknob,
Very informative.
This leads me to "another" question though... CT is Proactive/reactive. Maybe that's a stretch, (especially as, like you say, strategies are different) but getting to international terro leaders, especially in warfare zone, could still be considered a proactive strategy in order to prevent terrorist acts.
Apart from the "technical" part, do you think that hunting down internationsl terro group leaders, be it in warfare situation (afghanistan/Irak) or country at peace (joint op) could be considered as Counter Terrorism?

Sorry for the candid questions, I am trying to understand a little better the intricacy of international terrorism and act upon it vs. strict specop is a war situation.

and a great final question... I'll take some time to think about this as this can lead to ethical ridden conclusion, something I wouldn't consider lightly.
There's probably an FM or JP out there that explains the differences in excruciating detail.
I think I understand, it is just that this shift to non-conventional warfare has been stronger than ever in the recent times, or considered more effective in most engagement.
I am coming from Saint Nazaire (France) and have been raised with a strong understanding of this difference between conventional and specop activities. Conventional warfare has destroyed 95% of my city during WW2 (and we still have this huge Uboat bunker to remind us of those times). while the sacrifice of the SAS (Chariot) has been a lot more effective (even though so terrible in terms of human loss).

I am just trying to "get up to speed" with the new reality of war, Specop has always been to me "isolated and specific action" in a warfare situation. As warfare as evolved to terrorism, just trying to understand what this implies.

Thanks for your patience ;)
Counter-Terrorism: Simply put is actionable intelligence and the targeting of terrorist and terrorism networks, disrupting and or destroying their capabilities. This can be accomplished through many formats (cyber, financial, economic, physical ect ect)

Anti-Terrorism: Security measures used to reduce the vulnerability to terrorism attacks on personnel, structures or organizations (i.e. TSA screeners are an Anti-Terrorism effort).

Asymmetrical warfare: A broad doctrine that covers many aspects and tactics and the countering of tactic used in guerrilla/unconventional style warfare.

As for how they relate? Terrorism tactics and or the countering of terrorism are a form of Asymmetrical warfare. However, asymmetrical warfare also includes much more than just terrorism tactics or the countering of such. So they do relate in some regards, but the sole focus of asymmetrical warfare is not terrorism, nor is the sole focus of a counter terrorism unit asymmetrical warfare.
I think I understand, it is just that this shift to non-conventional warfare has been stronger than ever in the recent times, or considered more effective in most engagement.

Has it? Or have we just paid more attention to it? And what do you define as "recent times?" The end of WWII? The Cold War? The last century?

Asymmetric warfare is, as JAB stated, a "pretty" name for guerilla warfare. Now, you could argue that asymmetric warfare is the modern tool of choice for a group, but event hat would require one to split some hairs.

Off the top of my head going back to the 1700's:
- French and Indian war
- American Revolution (this involved both guerilla warfare and conventional battles)
- The American campaign against our indigenous natives. (this went on against numerous tribes for about 100 years)
- Anglo-Afghan Wars 1, 2, and 3 (a mix of warfare types)
- Sepoy Rebellion in India (you could lump in continued anti-British/ Raj actions over time)
- WWII (Asymmetric warfare played a huge if unsung role)
- Vietnam x 2 (France and America)
- Laos in the 60's
- Algeria in the 50's
- Philippines around the turn of the 20th centry (the Moros)
- Bolshevik Revolution in Russia
- Numerous revolts in Central and South America for several hundred years
- Pancho Villa

And I'm woefully ignorant of Asian and African history, but I'll bet a dollar they have lengthy Asymm. wars or wars wehre asymm. warefare played a significant role. I think all we've done is apply a "buzz phrase" or update something that has ALWAYS been around.
thanks for all the references and overall approach.
I am readjusting my perception of this (Counter terro vs. Specops)...

Marauder06 references to a possible FM or JP regarding this.
I have seen a couple FM available here and there... If they can be made public, where should I look into to find such a reference?

Thanks in advance.
Thanks x SF med.
I read quite a quantity of those, but realize my question was misleading. Sorry about that.

What is "bugging" me and compelled me to ask the question is that in its essence, asymetrical warfare is "localized", in a state or defined geographical area. Terrorism in its definition, is however international.
Sometimes, fighting terrorism is asymetrical warfare (Pakistan, Afgh., Irak war zones), but the fight can also be brought into non specificaly "at war" areas, hence falling into the definition of proactive counter-terrorism.

To quote the wikipedia introduction:
Discussion since 2004 has been complicated by the tendency of academic and military communities to use the term in different ways, and by its close association with guerrilla warfare, insurgency, terrorism, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism.

I am in the midst of this "complication" and was simply trying to get some help to de-complexify the issue. Some entry in this thread have helped me starting it.

I'll do some more readings and try to come up with more specific questions.
I am just a starting learner, a newcomer on this forum, and realize I should keep ShadowSpear members time for very specific questions.

Have a good day.

Could it be that after WWII compromise endings to wars became the norm? Before Korea winning meant complete surrender in defeat for the loser. Now in recent times it appears we are not in war for a win but a better position at the negotiating table.
Asymmetrical warfare can now succeed in getting a place at the Big Table at Christmas instead of the card table for children.
The above is a question not a statement.
I think the 'name tags' are causing more distractions than needed. Asym. War includes terrorism - the key point to remember is that there are unequal forces/tech/resources thus the Asym. .... A small well armed and fed opponent can defeat a larger force handily eg - Israel versus Egypt in the 6 day war - an asym war IMHO... it could also just be a cetralized versus a decentralized force eg a terrorist threat to a large well equipped nation that has a preponderance of sheeple. All asym really means is lopsided, the best example would be to understand the movie "the Mouse that Roared"

CT is asym but all asym is not CT... in order to understand the rules you have to play the game - but in this case the rules change constantly and the best players are the survivors...

Academics will try to parse the differences without explaining the similarities or Venn overlaps in the terms and conditions of Asym/CT/insurgency/counter insurgency/GW/UW. FID/UW is a reverse asym concept that uses force multiplication to create a winnable Asym environment for the trained force against the government in power.... I've given the clues, but I am not going to give away the TTPs and doctrines and secrets of this.... I will stop now although I'm sure this post is clear as mud to most readers.
thanks for all the references and overall approach.
I am readjusting my perception of this (Counter terro vs. Specops)...

Marauder06 references to a possible FM or JP regarding this.
I have seen a couple FM available here and there... If they can be made public, where should I look into to find such a reference?

Thanks in advance.

Just Google it, amazing what is out there. :(
On the subject of definitions: It's telling that even within the same government there is often a bunch of different definitions for terrorism. This is reflected by the different missions and viewpoints of the various departments. If the government can't agree on a definition, beyond the basics of course...
Speaking of terrorism, we seem to see 'terrorists' as the international types. We need to clean up our own backyard if we're going to yell at the neighbors. Lets label gangs as terrorists and hunt them down like animals.

I agree and for the most part most street gangs fall into the Narco-Terror group IMO, and as such with the current ongoing War on Drugs we (US Military) should be able to target them IMO.
I'm picturing internal breaches and bangers going off in low income apartments with tight hallways.