Prof. Boaz Ganor, Founder and Executive Director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), Ronald Lauder Chair for Counter-Terrorism & Dean, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy, The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, spoke with Arutz Sheva about the ICT’s 17th Annual International Conference taking place this week and explained what is necessary to engage in counter-terrorism.
Asked what changes Ganor has seen in the field of counter-terror, the Professor responded, "Terrorism is an evolving phenomenon. It changes from day to day, from year to year. The challenges that we faced last year, when we gathered hundreds of experts in this conference, exactly a year ago, were different challenges that what we are facing today. A year ago, ISIS was victorious. A year ago you had foreign fighters coming from all over the world to join ISIS. Today, ISIS is suffering from defeat after defeat.
"We are now struggling with the question here, at the conference, 'What would be the nature of Syria, what would be the nature of Iraq, what would be that nature of ISIS in the coming years?"
Ganor dissected the causes of the apparent rollback of ISIS that has occurred, and shared his views on where things are headed: "Counter-terrorism is a very complicated subject matter. I use the term 'the art of counter-terrorism'. You need to be an artist in order to be effective in counter-terrorism. No doubt that the defeats that ISIS has today in Syria and in Iraq from the military side are going to cause the caliphate to fall... But ISIS is not going to disappear. ISIS will change its nature; ISIS will become either a network like al Qaeda - change to be a network - or a network of networks if you wish; or, ISIS will find another territory where to flourish, say, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other places around the world. The challenge of the counter-terrorism experts in not just to observe that, to understand that, to analyze, but also even maybe to predict what's going to happen.
"At the end of the conference, on Thursday, we are going to have a wargame, in which we will try to get into the minds of ISIS, and understand what they will find merit in their future activities."
Ganor wished to stress the logic and discipline behind counter-terror work: "If there's one thing that I want to share with your viewers, it's that argument: we are talking about the art of counter-terrorism, and maybe the main, the most important knowledge of an artist of counter-terrorism is the ability to understand the rationality of the opponent, the rationality of the enemy, and the rationality of the terrorist. I'm working in the field of counter-terrorism for the last 35 years, and one thing I can tell you: IF not all, definitely most of the terrorists which I'm familiar with are rational actors. But, they have a different rationality. They have a different calculus of cost and benefit which is based on their religion, on their tradition, on their experience, on their interests; you name it. The task of the artist of counter-terrorism is to take off his own head, his own calculus of cost/benefit, and replace it with the calculus of the terrorists themselves."