I was giving a briefing on Islamic radicalization and current domestic terror threats at a military conference earlier this year when I was approached afterward by an Army colonel who asked exactly what could be done to counter such threats. He was taken aback when I replied, “The military can’t and won’t do what it needs to about jihadism, and we are going to see body bags coming out of our recruiting centers and military bases for the foreseeable future.”
Sadly, the killings at the Little Rock Army recruiting station in June and at Ft. Hood last Thursday confirm my analysis.
Much of the hand-wringing that has occurred in the media since the Ft. Hood shootings has been in the attempt to avoid the hard questions about the jihadist problem. In fact, significant energy is being expended by the media to assure us that there is no problem to solve. Many talking heads now claim that this incident was entirely unpredictable and the cause ultimately unknowable. This widespread agnosticism is an element to the overall problem of why we will continue to see shootings at military facilities.
There are other identifiable reasons why there will be future incidents. I offer these three observations, which are by no means exhaustive:
1) The Pentagon has yet to attempt to create a threat model that identifies, let alone addresses, the internal and external jihadist threat. In January 2008 my colleagues LTC Joseph Myers, Dr. Terri Wonder, and I delivered a series of lectures at the Department of the Army’s annual anti-terrorism conference focusing on three issues: 1) that our national security strategy has yet to incorporate any threat model for jihadist ideology and how that hampers our counterterrorism operations; 2) mosque-based scenarios that provide important indicators and warnings of potential local community radicalization; and 3) the sources of jihadist ideology and the need for military force protection personnel to engage their local community to identify potential threats. In the audience were 350 of the top military counterterrorism, force protection, and law enforcement officials from Army commands and bases around the globe. The military brass can’t claim that they haven’t been warned. In the two years since, some limited educational efforts have been made in response to our warnings, but on the command level there is an institutional obstinacy that prevents any substantive discussion leading to concrete policies to put into place DOD-wide. Under the present administration, that doesn’t look to change.
2) The military has made no apparent effort to address some of its stunning failures. For example, take the case of Ali Mohamed, al-Qaeda’s military chief who served as a U.S. Army sergeant at the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg and gathered extensive intelligence in his position that advanced the terror group’s understanding of warfare and helped to plan the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. As documented in Peter Lance’s book Triple Cross and the National Geographic documentary of the same name, Mohamed was allowed to continue in his position at this sensitive facility despite warnings from the Egyptian military and acknowledgment from his Army superiors that he held jihadist ideas. In light of what we presently know about Major Nadal Malik Hasan, it already seems clear that there were many obvious warning signs that were intentionally ignored, giving proof that very little has been learned from Ali Mohamed and several other similar cases since 9/11.