Mon, 09 May 2011 10:47:01 GMT | By Lajwanti D'souza

Al-Qaeda's terror operations planned for maximum media exposure: Study

All through this week, Al-Qaeda has hogged front page space across media, world over. With Osama Bin Laden’s death ‘what now’ is the question on most people’s minds.


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Al-Qaeda's terror operations planned for maximum media exposure: Study

A recent research by a business student at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, US, along with an expert on terrorism on the internal workings of the Al-Qaeda, partly answers this question.

Gregory Keeney, a student in the Master of Management Studies at Fuqua School of Business, and Detlof von Winterfeldt, former director at Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorist Events and current director of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis have studied writings and verbal statements of Al-Qaeda's members and spiritual leaders, from 1998 to 2008. Their findings have been included in "Identifying and Structuring the Objectives of Terrorists," published in the December 2010 issue of Risk Analysis, a journal from the Society for Risk Analysis.

Below are some excerpts of the study.

Why this topic for research?

The risk of terrorism is of great concern to many countries and significant resources are spent to counter this threat. A better understanding of the motivation of terrorists and their reasons for selecting certain modes and targets of attack can help improve the decisions to allocate resources in the fight against terrorism. The fundamental question addressed is: "What do terrorists want?" We take the view that terrorists' preferences for actions are based on their values and beliefs. An important missing piece in our knowledge of terrorists' preferences is an understanding of their values. To illustrate the approach, we extracted the values of Al-Qaeda and structured them in terms of strategic, fundamental, and means objectives.

Did the US government support this research?

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE). However, any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in this research are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

What was the methodology used to identify Al-Qaeeda's objectives and how do you connect them tobusiness studies?

To identify and structure Al-Qaeda's objectives, we used decision analysis tools. In typical decision analysis, objectives are elicited in interviews with decision makers and stakeholders. Since this is obviously not possible in this case, we developed a novel approach to identify and structure Al-Qaeda's objectives from their members' writings, internet postings, and from the academic literature. There are different types of objectives: means objectives (guiding short-term, day-to-day actions); fundamental objectives (guiding medium- to long-term actions); and strategic objectives (guiding all decisions leading to end goals).

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