The U.S. government is heavily reliant on Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the fight against terrorism. While there is no doubt that SOF is tactically proficient when it comes to counterterrorism (CT), it is not clear if tactical achievements in this domain translate to successful outcomes at the operational, and especially, the strategic level. Moreover, insofar as terrorism is an inherently political phenomenon, effectively countering terrorism requires political approaches. Nevertheless, extant research has not sufficiently examined the interplay of SOF CT actions and non-kinetic approaches taken by the interagency to counter terrorism. This study proposes to systematically explore these two questions.
This report will involve rigorously structured desk-based research employing process tracing and thick description. Practitioner interviews will also be utilized. It will also leverage insights from previous interviews, expert discussions, archival research and quantitative modeling on Iraq conducted by PI Koven.