Evaluate the national security implications of terrorism and counterterrorism?

Updated: Apr 22, 2021


This paper seeks to highlight the emerging security challenges in terrorism and counter-terrorism from national security.

Several authors have argued that terrorism remains a security concern around the world (Bester, 2019) and it has been argued that the most conflicts to worry about in 2020 are United States of America, Mexico, Yemen, Sahel region, India, Somalia, Lebanon, and Ethiopia (Acled, 2020). There were 662 deaths from terrorism in Iraq in 2018, 646 in Somalia, 2040 in Nigeria, 1054 in Iraq, 7379 in Afghanistan and 4,171 in all other countries (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2019). The statistics indicate the emerging challenges in terrorism and countering terrorism around the world.

It has been argued that insurgents in Iraq have crippled the Oil economy which consequently increased oil prices worldwide. Moreover, the increasing terrorist attacks around the world have resulted in the fall of the financial system with the increase of insurance for businesses around the world (Burke, 2005). Security threats have increased following terrorist attacks in many countries around the world as well as the increasing cost to businesses and passengers travelling around the world (Burke, 2005).

It has been argued that the terrorist attacks have impacted supply management due to new border security rules (Burke, 2005). Burke, 2005 has argued that the short effects of 9/11 include loss of innocence, a heightened sense of insecurity, the exploitation of freedom, grieving with the family of the deceased, compassion for those who suffered losses, confirming the centrality of the human condition, revitalising the bond of social connection, recognising the fragility of life and change of events, and highlighting the need to work less, play more, closely with family and friends, nourish one root, and seek meaning and spiritual values in one's daily transactions.

Defining Security

It has been argued that a clear definition of security has rarely been offered in the arguments for radical counterterrorism measures (Wolfendale, 2007). David Baldwin points out that any definition of security must meet several conditions which must be defined about: "... the actor whose values are to be secured, the values concerned, the degree of security, the kinds of threats, the means for coping with such threats, the costs of doing so, and the relevant period.” (Wolfendale, 2007).

Moreover, security is mostly associated with the alleviation of threats with cherish values and threatened the value of the object soon (Williams and McDonald, 2018). It has been argued that survival-plus being some freedom from life-determining threats and life choices (Williams and McDonald, 2018).

It has been argued that priority should be given to human security and human security is defined as;

Human security is not concerned with weapons. It is a concern with human dignity, in the last analysis, it is not a child who died, a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode, a dissident who was not silenced and a human spirit that was not crushed (Williams and McDonald, 2018).

Williams and McDonald, (2018) argued that security analysts should focus their matters relating to armed conflict, the threat and the use of military force. However, further arguments suggest that security can come in many shapes and sizes, several debates regarding the implementation of security policies and actions taken by international organisations (Williams & McDonald, 2018). Security actors must understand the security environment and respond to their agendas during the conflict (Williams and McDonald, 2018).

Terrorism Strategy

Counterterrorism (U.S. Department of Défense, 2003) is defined as “offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, and respond to terrorism.” This broad definition can include diplomatic options, policies, strategies, methods, and actions that aim to reduce or eliminate terrorism.

Antiterrorism (U.S. Department of Défense, 1998) is defined as “defensive measures used to reduce the vulnerability of individuals and property to terrorist acts.” This narrower term stresses target hardening, security, and training to prevent and mitigate terrorist attacks (Purpura and Purpura, 2006).

Differentiating counterterrorism and antiterrorism may be difficult in certain instances. For example, homeland security includes both counterterrorism (e.g., proactive investigations of suspects, collecting intelligence) and antiterrorism (e.g., increasing security at airports).

International terrorism can impact both domestic terrorism and counterterrorism, and domestic terrorism can impact both international terrorism and counterterrorism. Consequently, both international and domestic counterterrorism efforts should be characterized by collaboration and integration of resources and strategies to enhance success (Purpura and Purpura, 2006).

Bester, (2019) argued that terrorism strategy provides guidelines for its functions and five principal strategies have been indicated which are Intimidation (convincing the population that they are stronger than the government), provocation (triggering the enemy to respond through indiscriminate violence), attrition (persuasion of the enemy to impose considerable cost), spoiling (undermining attempts to reach a peace settlement), and outbidding (using violence to convince people that they are worthy of support).


It has been argued that counterterrorism is a bone of contention, which frequently raised difficult and /or controversial policy issues because it often conflicts with other values, such as personal liberty (absence of restrictions on daily life) and privacy (avoiding governmental scrutiny of personal matters (Bester, 2019). Pillar (2013, p. 457) describes counterterrorism in broad as: “… a concerted and cooperative effort by governments to combat this tactic [terrorism] … not everything that can be done to combat terrorism bears the label of ‘counterterrorism’”.

However, it has been argued that counterterrorism can be affected by reducing the motivation for individuals to join terrorist groups; shaping the incentives of groups to use peaceful rather than violent means to pursue their objectives; incident management to mitigate its effect and utilising a soft approach in counterterrorism such as rehabilitation and deradicalization (Bester, 2019).

Counter Insurgency

The definition of the insurgent groups suggests that the groups employ unlawful means, towards achieving an end, which could be political, religious, social, or even ideological. The goal of insurgency is to confront and overthrow an existing government for the control of power, resources or power-sharing (Olawarewaju, F and Folarin, S 2017).

[Counterinsurgency] is an offensive approach involving all elements of national power; it can take place across the range of operations and spectrum of conflict. Generally, the preferred methods are through assistance and development programs. Leaders must consider the roles of military, intelligence, diplomatic, law enforcement, information, finance, and economic elements (MIDLIFE) in counterinsurgency (Forest, J., 2007).

Moreover, counter-insurgency is an old strategy that has come and gone from the military limelight and it was initially launched against the Roman Empire (Williams & McDonald, 2018). The recent counter-insurgency was used by the UN in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack and the Iraq Intervention in 2003 (Williams & McDonald, 2018). Nowadays the traditional counterinsurgency is no longer being handled by the military except the civilian government agencies, private security companies, aid agencies, non-governmental organisations, the media, and other actors who play the role of counterinsurgency (Williams & McDonald, 2018). However, it has been argued that there are dangers of applying classical counterinsurgency to contemporary situations as the nature of the insurgents due to its complexity of local environments and the globalisation of the international system which require a careful adaptation of counterinsurgency to the contemporary era (Williams and McDonald, 2018).

It has been argued that in modern counterinsurgency, victory may need to be redefined as the disarming and reintegration of insurgents into society, combined with popular support for permanent, institutionalized anti-terrorist measures that contain the risk of terrorist cells emerging from the former insurgent movement (Kilcullen, 2006/07: 123).

Williams et al (2018) stated that Robert Thompson created five principles of counterinsurgency which are.

  • The government must have a clear political aim; to establish and maintain a free, independent, and united country that is politically and economically stable and viable.

  • The government must function following the law.

  • The government must have an overall plan.

  • The government must give the overall priority to defeat political subversion, not guerrillas.

  • In the guerrilla phase of insurgency, a government must secure its base area first.

Strategy and Grand Strategy

Implementing a counter-terrorism strategy has caused confusions around the world and it has been argued that there has been confusion on the use of strategy and grand strategy. Confusing these terms will result in serious consequences and it is often lead to overutilization and overemphasis of military power. (Forest, J., 2007).

A grand strategy is defined as a nation’s (or a group of nations’) comprehensive plan of action that coordinates and directs all political, economic, and military means and their associated factors to attain large ends. It has been argued that an effective strategy employs military resources and personnel in such a way as to support the grand strategy and secure the nation’s interests. While grand strategy and strategy are ultimately employed in the service of the same national interests, national security strategy narrowly focuses on the military element of power. (Forest, J., 2007).

It has been argued that the formation of a successful U.S. grand strategy in the counterinsurgency against al Qaeda requires a detailed analysis of the sources of radicalization that lead to terrorism directed against the United States and its allies. (Forest, J., 2007).

Identifying a problem constitutes an essential first step in developing a solution. The current U.S. grand strategy misdiagnoses the causes of radicalization and terrorism. Consequently, the NSCT proposes the wrong prescriptions. While some political, psychological, sociological, and ideological maladies prevalent in much of the Muslim world may contribute to radicalization and terrorism, they do not serve as the primary catalysts. A virtually unlimited supply of “jihadi” interviews and statements, as well as public opinion polls, demonstrates that the Arab-Israeli crisis and the U.S. military presence in the Middle East serve as preeminent catalysts for radicalization and terrorism. (Forest, J., 2007).

UK Prevent Strategy

The United Kingdom PREVENT strategy was established in 2006 following the London Bombing in 2005 and this includes the processes for prevention of terrorist involving several stakeholders in the public, private and community (Dresser, P., 2018). There was a further review in the PREVENT strategy by the government to include the ideological challenges of terrorism, provision of support and assistance to the terrorist individuals and work with organisations who support the counter-radicalisation (Dresser, P., 2018). Initially, the PREVENT strategy focused on Islamic terrorists and was not focusing on other forms of terrorism (Dresser, P., 2018). The current PREVENT strategy focus on counter-radicalisation, community cohesion, and deradicalization (Dresser, P., 2018). It aims at inhibiting the extremism in the United Kingdom, increases the resilience of extremism ideologies within the communities, and target those individuals who are engaging in terrorism activities (Dresser, P., 2018).

Below is the prevent strategy (Contest, 2011).

  • Pursue- stop the terrorist attack.

  • Prevent- to stop people from becoming terrorist or supporting terrorism.

  • Usman Khan was killed in November 2019 at London Bridge, London after he was released halfway following a 16-year sentence for terrorist offences and Khan was undergoing rehabilitation after prison release. He had attended training and armed with two knives and a fake vest. He killed two people and following enquiries prevent police officers had not undergone training (Guardian, 2020)

  • On the 02nd of February 2020, Sudesh Aman was shot dead by the police in London after stabbing two people. Amman was given three years for terrorist offences in 2018 but he was released halfway (Channel 4, 2020).

  • Following the two incidents, the government introduced a new bill where terrorist offenders will receive at least a minimum of 14 years in prison for serious offenders, no prospect of early release and up to 25 years of monitoring (Gov. UK, 2020).

  • Although 25 terror plots have been foiled in the United Kingdom since 2017 and counter-terrorism police are working on 800 live cases. The government has increased funding to 900 milling pounds a year to fight terrorism in the UK (Sky news, 2020).

  • The number of referrals has decreased by 21% in 2018-19 and 77% were deemed not suitable for specialist support but there has been an increased-on number of a suspected far-right extremist with 254 cases compared to 210 of suspected Islamic radicalisation (BBC, 2020). About 561 cases entered a channel programme to divert them from deradicalization (BBC, 2020).

  • Recent reports suggest that children may have been radicalised during a lockdown and it has been argued that the fear is to incite vulnerable people towards terrorism (Guardian, 2020).

  • In June, this year a 14-year-old boy was arrested for suspicion of terrorism and the boy had converted to Islam earlier this year, he was planning a terror plot and he is one of the youngest people to ever be charged with terrorism in the UK (Independent, 2020).

  • Following the recent incidents in France and Austria, the UK government raised its threats level from Substantial to Severe meaning that an attack is highly likely (Sky News, 2020).

There are five levels of threat.

  • Low- an attack is highly unlikely.

  • The moderate-an attack is possible but not likely.

  • Substantial- an attack is likely.

  • Severe- an attack is highly likely.

  • Critical- an attack is highly likely soon (Gov. UK, 2020).

  • There were 268 arrests in 2019 for terrorist arrests (Home Office, 2019). The number of arrests has dropped by 65 per year over the past six years (Home office, 2019).

  • Over 900 jihadists thought to have fought with ISIS and 40% thought to have returned (FT, 2020).

  • Protect- to strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack.

  • Prepare- to mitigate the impact of the terrorist attack.

It has been suggested that those dealings with terrorist offenders requires different methodology and approach and requires an evidence-based approach (Weeks, D., 2018). Youth and adults must have a different approach and attitude when dealing with them and have a clear understanding of the religious doctrine (Weeks, D.,2018). It is all about building trust and establishing a reputation with individuals and the community (Weeks, D.,2018). It has been argued that there is a lack of assessment on gathering evidence whether the deradicalization programmes are effective due to limited choices (Weeks, D., 2018). The process is a difficult and complex environment (Weeks, D., 2018). However, the process continues to interest many scholars and practitioners in this sector to seek a fundamental change (Weeks, D.,2018).

Islamophobia and Islam

Researchers have defined Islamophobia as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life (Gallup, 2016).

Islamophobia existed before 9/11 in the US and before 7/7 in the UK, but this increased following the attacks in the US and UK which made life difficult for Muslims (Gallup, 2016). According to the statistics around 52% in the USA, 48% in Canada and 38% in the UK do not respect the Muslims in the west (Gallup, 2016). Moreover, about 40% of Europeans believed that political interests are the driving force between Muslim -West tensions (Gallup, 2016).

Gallup (2016) argued that the promotion of Islamophobia creates both prejudice and discrimination among the general population. Prejudice plays a key role in the existence and proliferation of Islamophobia. Prejudice alone, as a negative judgment, opinion, or attitude, is a detriment to a population's overall well-being. Prejudice combined with overt actions, rising to the level of discrimination, creates a dangerous environment for its victims. Gallup analyses offer an examination of prejudice against Muslims and Islam in several countries and regions globally.

Based on this argument education awareness to the wider community in the west to understand the Islam religion and not only this must help repair the existing tensions but as well as understand that Islam is not a religion of hate and promote peace as well as condone the killing of innocent people. To understand the counter-terrorism strategy and the process, it is also important to understand the Islam religion which may assist with the deradicalization programmes of individuals.


Acled, (2020) Ten Conflicts to worry about in 2020.

BBC (2020). https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/dec/19/prevent-figures-show-only-one-in-10-anti-radicalisation-referrals-need-acute-support#:~:text=The%20total%20number%20of%20referrals,from%20the%20Home%20Office%20show.

Burke, Ronald J. "International Terrorism and Threats to Security." Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal 14.5 (2005): 639-43. Web.

Wolfendale, Jessica. "Terrorism, Security, and the Threat of Counterterrorism." Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30.1 (2007): 75-92. Web.

Bester, P.C. (2019, January). Emerging challenges in terrorism and counterterrorism: A national security perspective. Paper presented on 17 January 2019 at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Public Management, Law and Safety, The Hague. BEST

Contest (2011) The United Kingdom Strategy for Countering Terrorism. HM Government.

Channel 4 (2020). https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-qa-can-the-government-change-the-law-to-keep-terrorists-in-prison

David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars amid a Big One (Oxford University Press, 2009). A thoughtful and well-received analysis of counterinsurgency operations.

Dresser, P., (2018). Counter Radicalisation through safeguarding: A political Analysis of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act (2015). Journal for Deradicalization. No. 16

Forest, J. (2007) Countering terrorism and insurgency in the 21st century. International Perspectives

FT (2020) https://www.ft.com/content/11fd7c00-0790-11ea-a984-fbbacad9e7dd

Gallup (2016) Islamophobia Understanding anti-Muslim sentiment in the west Accessed from https://news.gallup.com/poll/157082/islamophobia-understanding-anti-muslim-sentiment-west.aspx

Guardian (2020) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/oct/16/london-bridge-killers-prevent-officers-had-no-specific-training

Gov.UK (2020). https://www.gov.uk/government/news/14-year-minimum-jail-terms-for-most-dangerous-terror-offenders

Gov.UK https://www.gov.uk/terrorism-national-emergency

Institute of Economics and Peace, (2019). Global Terrorism Index 2019. Measuring the Impact of Terrorism. Start.

Purpura, Philip P., and Phillip P Purpura. Terrorism and Homeland Security: An Introduction with Applications, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2006.

Weeks, D (2018). Doing Derad: An analysis of the UK System. Routledge. Taylor and Francis Group.

Williams, Paul D., McDonald, Matt, and VLeBooks. Security Studies [electronic Resource]: An Introduction. 3rd ed. London: Routledge, 2018. Web.

Wolfendale, J (2007). Terrorism, Security, and the threat of Counter-Terrorism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 30:75–92, 2007Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

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