Jones and Libicki also found that the effect of removing a group’s leader was most pronounced when the removal was caused by the actions of local police or intelligence. “We found very few cases when terrorist groups ended that they ended because of outside government, direct outside government involvement. So they were generally defeated by the countries within which they operated,” Jones says.
Jones adds that this may be in part because local governments have better information and more control of security forces in the area and more at stake than outside forces. He says that this finding suggests “that when the U.S. conducts activities, counterterrorist activities overseas, that it must…rely on the local government.”
Jones notes that when a country allows a terrorist group to use its territory as a base of operations for attacks on other countries, the host country’s government may not be motivated to help capture or kill the group’s leadership. An example is Pakistan, which appears to allow Lashkar-e-Taiba to exist within Pakistan and use its location to launch attacks on India. “[W]orking through local governments ends up being problematic when they’re not interested in targeting a terrorist group or when they can’t. So that’s kind of the downside if you’re trying to rely on somebody else to do it,” Jones says.
Other notable findings from this research were that 10 percent of terrorist groups ended because they achieved their objectives, and religiously based or motivated terrorist groups took longer to end but were less likely to achieve their goals.
Only seven percent of groups were defeated by military force. The report recommended moving away from a U.S. military approach against al Qaeda and keeping increased focus on more local policing and intelligence, with cooperation of the FBI and CIA.
Jones and Libicki also found that whether a state was a democracy or not didn’t seem to matter. They found “that democratic states were not more likely to defeat terrorist groups,” says Jones. He added that there was no evidence that economic improvements helped to end terror groups.