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Terrorism: A PubHub Reading List

May 04, 2011

The killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has, for the moment, put the "war on terror" back on the American public's radar and resurfaced difficult questions about U.S.-led anti-terrorism efforts in the Muslim world, "enhanced" interrogation techniques in Guantanamo and elsewhere, and Pakistan's reliability as an ally in the struggle against international terrorism.

Pulled from the Foundation Center's PubHub catalog and the IssueLab archives, the nine reports listed below address various aspects of the global war on terror, including current strategies and tactics in that conflict, their effectiveness, and their long-term implications and consequences, for the United States as well as former detainees.

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Terror_osi_trustdeficit As an international coalition struggles to contain a resurgent Taliban and bring a semblance of stability to Afghanistan, U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts in that country have generated mixed reactions among the local population. Indeed, current operations there appear to be sowing distrust and resentment among the very civilians whose support the coalition most needs, a 2010 report from the Open Society Institute argues. The Trust Deficit: The Impact of Local Perceptions on Policy in Afghanistan (25 pages, PDF) examines Afghan civilians' views on the presence of international forces in their country, the spike in civilian casualties and wrongful or abusive detentions of Afghans, and the deteriorating security situation that has shaped those views.

Terror_osi_nightraids Night-time search-and-seizure operations are one of the practices responsible for this "trust deficit," a 2010 report from OSI and the Liaison Office, an Afghan nongovernmental organization, suggests. Based on interviews with Afghan civilians, Strangers at the Door: Night Raids by International Forces Lose Hearts and Minds of Afghans (15 pages, PDF) examines how night raids deeply traumatize local communities, which in turn sours locals' perceptions of the international coalition and precludes meaningful cooperation with coalition forces. Despite recent changes to the way night raids are conducted, the report argues, the continued reliance on the tactic is alienating the Afghan population and undermining the rule of law in Afghanistan.

Terror_osi_confinement Based on interviews with former detainees, the OSI report Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base (16 pages, PDF) documents abuses of detainees at the main U.S.-controlled air field in Afghanistan, including sensory/sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and exposure to excessive cold, between 2007 and 2010. The report points to a lack of transparency and denial of access to the International Committee of the Red Cross as serious concerns, and lists a series of actions with respect to the holding and interrogation of detainees the U.S. needs to take to put itself in compliance with international standards.

Terror_osi_gtmoaftermath What about U.S. counterterrorism activities and practices outside Afghanistan?  Guantanamo and Its Aftermath: U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Detainees (136 pages, PDF), a 2008 report from the Human Rights Center and International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley looks at conditions and interrogation practices at the U.S. naval base located at the southeastern end of Cuba, as well as how those conditions affected detainees' subsequent reintegration with their families and communities. Based on interviews with former detainees, attorneys, U.S. officials, and military personnel, the report, which was funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, raises "troubling questions" about "the system created by the Bush administration for the apprehension, detention, and release of suspected members of the Taliban and al Qaeda taken into U.S. custody" since the attacks of September 11 and urges Congress to conduct a nonpartisan investigation into conditions at the base.

Terror_ hrc_retrurninghome The issue of deradicalization and disengagement of former Guantanamo Bay detainees remains an urgent issue, according to Returning Home: Resettlement And Reintegration of Detainees Released From the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (26 pages, PDF), a 2009 study by the Human Rights Center and International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley. Funded by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the report calls for the implementation of a resettlement and reintegration policy designed to minimize the social stigma experienced by former detainees, short-term financial assistance and support as well as mental and physical health services for former detainees, and actions to ensure that detainees are reintegrated in partnership with local communities. U.S. support for such programs, the report argues, would enhance our national security, help repair the United States' image abroad, enable former detainees to lead productive lives, and strengthen multilateral cooperation in fighting international terrorism.

Terror_osi_torture Concern about "enhanced" interrogation techniques like waterboarding is the focus of the 2010 Physicians for Human Rights report Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the "Enhanced" Interrogation Program (30 pages, PDF). Funded by the Open Society Institute, the report examines evidence of medical professionals monitoring the interrogations of detainees, analyzing the results, and seeking to apply their observations to subsequent interrogations -- in part, the report suggests, to provide a basis for a "good faith" defense against charges of torture. Unfortunately, the use of health professionals in monitoring harmful interrogation techniques has resulted in a co-opting of health professionals by the national security apparatus, the report argues, and represents a violation of the fundamental medical admonition to "do no harm."

Terror_rand_deradicalizing Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists (244 pages, PDF), a 2010 report from the RAND Corporation (with support from the Smith Richardson Foundation), analyzes the processes through which Islamist extremists become deradicalized; assesses the effectiveness of deradicalization programs in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe; and outlines best practices, implications, and policy recommendations. Among other things, the report argues that such efforts should combine the rehabilitation of detainees through religious dialogue with the creation of disincentives to recidivism as well as support for and monitoring of deradicalized individuals' reintegration into society.

And from our friends at IssueLab, here are two nonprofit research reports on the subject:

Terror_issuelab cato Pakistan and the Future of U.S. Policy, a report from the Cato Institute, argues that America's actions in the war on terror are not accepted by "the majority of Pakistan's population, and officials in Islamabad cannot afford to be perceived as putting America's interests above those of their own people." The report also suggests that because the long-term viability of the nuclear-armed Muslim-majority country depends on the Pakistani public's repudiation of extremism, "our continued presence in Afghanistan is adding more fuel to violent religious radicalism [in Pakistan]" and undermining "our mission in the region."

Terror_issuelab world_security Defense Monitor: Where Is America Going? Five Years After Sept. 11, a 2006 report from the World Security Institute, is a collection of articles released on the fifth anniversary of September 11th. The collection includes: "Where Is America Going? Five Years After Sept. 11"; "In the Name of Fighting Terrorism: The United States Is Still Arming the World"; "The War on Terrorism: Winning the Un-Winnable"; and "Defense Budget Tutorial: So, You Think You Know the Costs of the Wars?"

Do you have a report you'd like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below.

And don't be shy about weighing in with your own thoughts about the war on terror and the strategies and tactics being used to prosecute that conflict.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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