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How Transnational Terrorists Profit from Fragile States

SWP Research Paper 2004/S 18, 15.05.2004, 34 Seiten Forschungsgebiete

Since 9/11, state failure is often seen as one of the essential conditions for transnational terrorist networks to function and operate. This study aims at examining this hypothesis by addressing the following questions: What connection really exists between the existence of fragile states and terrorism? What essential capabilities must terrorist networks possess in order to sustain themselves? And in how far do fragile states - usually against their will - contribute to this?


The study analyses first the entire spectrum of fragile states, not just the most serious cases of state disintegration, and distinguishes between weak, failing and failed states. Second, various aspects of infrastructure and logistical functions of terrorist networks are examined: recruiting, training and planning, safe havens and areas for withdrawal, transit and supply routes, communication, access to resources and to financing. Third, the study finally concludes that the countries that are of interest for transnational terrorists are primarily those whose statehood is precarious and which display considerable deficits in certain areas. They cannot, however, be considered failed or collapsed since they still maintain a certain degree of order, partly through authoritarian means. In contrast, failed states or regions with severe civil wars are only of limited use for terrorist networks - with the significant exception of Afghanistan. For the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks, the relevant states are first of all countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines that accommodate, to varying degrees, the key infrastructure needs of transnational networks.