- "What I can say is that today, my officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1600 identified individuals (and there will be many we don't know) who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas."
- "We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer thirty - that we know of. These plots often have links back to Al-Qaida in Pakistan and through those links Al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale. And it is not just the UK of course. Other countries also face a new terrorist threat: from Spain to France to Canada and Germany."
- "What we see at the extreme end of the spectrum are resilient networks, some directed from Al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it, planning attacks including mass casualty suicide attacks in the UK. Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices; tomorrow's threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology. More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on television, through chat rooms and websites on the Internet."
In ContextThe groups that Dame Eliza's MI5 has identified are clearly the tip the of the iceberg. The dynamics of this model of warfare dictate that for every group identified (almost all in the likely detection zone depicted by the red nodes in the graphic in the upper left), there are dozens more in formation or fully functional without direct connections to known sources of danger (without a direct connection to a known terrorist group or individual, it is nearly impossible to differentiate dangerous networks from benign ones). As my brief The Changing Face of War: Into the 5th Generation described, these groups will:
- Continue to form under their own steam. They are a product of the growing appeal of primary loyalties (a function of globalization) relative to those of the increasingly remote "interests of the state." Also, since the situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan show no sign of abating (in fact, quite the opposite), this dynamic will continue to intensify. Again, since there isn't any cohesive hierarchy associated with this community, gains in rolling up one network will not transfer to many other networks. They are relatively autonomous and this adds mightily to their resiliency.
- Increasingly move towards economic and social systems disruption. The ongoing pressure on groups from the MI5 will counter the development of complex plans that require large networks to accomplish. The natural outcome of this pressure is a move towards the simplicity and outsized returns generated by systems disruption (this has also been reflected in both statements from al Qaeda to the output of Internet media). Luckily, we are still a decade away from when fully functional weapons of mass destruction become viable for the productivity level of small networks of this type (Ikle's scenario). Our ability to deal with this effectively now, will predict our success then.
- Connection to transnational crime will continue. The connection between many of these groups and the smuggling networks of "black globalization" will continue to generate funding for ongoing operations (both in the UK and abroad). This connection also means that we will increasingly see "terrorism for hire" among disaffected and unemployed youth. This will radically expand the pool of potential participants.