Clandestine Cell System - Non-traditional Models, Exemplified By Al-Qaeda

Non-traditional Models, Exemplified By Al-Qaeda

Due to cultural differences, assuming the al-Qaeda Training Manual is authentic, Islamist cell structures may differ from the Western mode. "Al-Qaida's minimal core group, only accounting for the leadership, can also be viewed topologically as a ring or chain network, with each leader/node heading their own particular hierarchy.

"Such networks function by having their sub-networks provide information and other forms of support (the ‘many-to-one’ model), while the core group supplies ‘truth’ and decisions/directions (the ‘one-to-many’ model). Trust and personal relationships are an essential part of the Al-Qaida network (a limiting factor, even while it provides enhanced security). Even while cell members are trained as ‘replaceable’ units, ‘vetting’ of members occurs during the invited training period under the observation of the core group.

Cells of this structure are built outwards, from an internal leadership core. Superficially, this might be likened to a Western cell structure that emanates from a headquarters, but the Western centrality is bureaucratic, while structures in other non-western cultures builds on close personal relationships, often built over years, perhaps involving family or other in-group linkages. Such in-groups are thus extremely hard to infiltrate; infiltration has a serious chance only outside the in-group. Still, it may be possible for an in-group to be compromised through COMINT or, in rare cases, by compromising a member.

The core group is logically a ring, but is superimposed on an inner hub-and-spoke structure of ideological authority. Each member of the core forms another hub and spoke system (see infrastructure cells, the spokes leading to infrastructure cells under the supervision of the core group member, and possibly to operational groups which the headquarters support. Note that in this organization, there is a point at which the operational cell becomes autonomous of the core. Members surviving the operation may rejoin at various points.

Osama, in this model, has the main responsibility of commanding the organization and being the spokesman on propaganda video and audio messages distributed by the propaganda cell. The other members of the core each command one or more infrastructure cells.

While the tight coupling enhances security, it can limit flexibility and the ability to scale the organization. This in-group, while sharing tight cultural and ideological values, is not committed to a bureaucratic process.

"Members of the core group are under what could be termed ‘positive control’—long relationships and similar mindsets make ‘control’ not so much of an issue, but there are distinct roles, and position (structural, financial, spiritual in the sense of having the ‘correct’ interpretation of Islam) determines authority, thus making the core group a hierarchy topologically.

In the first example of the core, each member knows how to reach two other members, and also knows the member(s) he considers his ideological superior. Solid lines show basic communication, dotted red arrows show the first level of ideological respect, and dotted blue arrows show a second level of ideological respect.

If Osama, the most respected, died, the core would reconstitute itself. While different members have an individual ideological guide, and these are not the same for all members, the core would reconstitute itself with Richard as most respected.

Assume there are no losses, and Osama can be reached directly only by members of the core group. Members of outer cells and support systems might know him only as "the Commander", or, as in the actual case of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's face is recognizable worldwide, but only a very few people know where he is or even how to contact it.

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