This handbook comprises essays by leading scholars and practitioners on the topic of U.S. counterterrorism and irregular warfare campaigns and operations around the globe.

Terrorist groups have evolved substantially since 9/11, with the Islamic State often described as a pseudo-state, a terrorist group, and insurgency all at the same time. While researchers', analysts', and policymakers’ understanding of terrorism has grown immensely over the past two decades, similar advancements in the understanding of counterterrorism lag. As such, this handbook explains why it is necessary to take a broader view of counterterrorism which can, and often does, include irregular warfare.

The volume is divided into three thematic sections:

  • Part I examines modern terrorism in the Islamic world and gives an overview of the major terrorist groups from the past three decades;
  • Part II provides a wide variety of case studies of counterterrorism and irregular warfare operations, spanning from the 1980s to the irregular warfare campaign against the Islamic State in northern Syria in 2018;
  • Part III examines the government instruments used to combat terrorism and wage irregular warfare, such as drones, Theater Special Operations Commands, and Theater Commands.

The handbook fills a gap in the traditional counterterrorism literature by its inclusion of irregular warfare and by providing analyses from academic experts as well as practitioners. It will be of much interest to students of counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, U.S. national security, military affairs, and International Relations.

The Open Access version of this book, available at https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-US-Counterterrorism-and-Irregular-Warfare-Operations/Sheehan-Marquardt-Collins/p/book/9780367758363, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

chapter |8 pages


ByLiam Collins
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part I|164 pages

The threat and regional security issues

chapter 1|16 pages

The evolution of Islamist terrorism in the 20th century

ByJames J.F. Forest
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chapter 2|14 pages

The ideology behind al-Qaida and the Islamic State

ByDaniel Rudder, Christopher Heffelfinger
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chapter 3|13 pages

The evolution of al-Qaida

1988 to present day
BySeth G. Jones
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chapter 4|17 pages

The history of the Islamic State

From Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
ByBrian Fishman
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chapter 5|12 pages

Contemporary conflict and political violence in the Levant

ByBenedetta Berti
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chapter 6|12 pages

Jihadi militancy and Houthi insurgency in Yemen

ByElisabeth Kendall
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chapter 7|10 pages

The roots of terrorism in North and West Africa

AQIM and Boko Haram
ByAlice Hunt Friend
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chapter 8|12 pages

Al-Shabaab and the Horn of Africa

ByKen Menkhaus
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chapter 9|17 pages

The history of terrorism in Southeast Asia

ByPeter Chalk
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chapter 10|14 pages

The Taliban and the modern history of Afghanistan

ByRob Johnson
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chapter 11|11 pages

The modern history of Iran and the birth of the Shia proxy model

ByAlex Vatanka
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chapter 12|14 pages

Terrorism, insurgency, and criminal insurgency in Latin America

ByRomán D. Ortiz
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part II|175 pages

Operational case studies

chapter 13|15 pages

El Salvador

Operations and Planning Assistance Training Teams and a minimalist approach to counterinsurgency
ByCecil E. Bailey
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chapter 14|13 pages

Plan Colombia and the U.S. Army's 7th Special Forces Group

ByKevin M. Higgins
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chapter 15|9 pages

The story of the U.S. role in the killing of Pablo Escobar

ByMark Bowden
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chapter 16|11 pages

The Iran-Contra Affair and the Afghan Task Force

Lessons in covert action
ByJack Devine, Amanda Mattingly
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chapter 17|16 pages

The horse soldiers

Lessons from expeditionary unconventional warfare
ByMark E. Mitchell
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chapter 18|15 pages

Special Operations Forces and Afghan Local Police programs

ByDonald C. Bolduc, Chris Hensley
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chapter 20|13 pages

Dismantling al-Qaida in Iraq

ByLiam Collins
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chapter 21|13 pages

Operation Enduring Freedom–Philippines

Lessons in special warfare
ByDavid S. Maxwell
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chapter 22|14 pages

Operation Serval

A swift intervention with a small footprint in Mali
ByMichael A. Sheehan, Pascale C. Siegel
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chapter 23|16 pages

U.S. counterterrorism policy in Yemen from 2010–2020

ByLuke Hartig
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chapter 24|25 pages

Defeating the Islamic State

Special Operations Forces in Syria
ByAnthony Messenger, Nick Lewis-Walls, Mike Parker, Bert Pedrigi, David P. Kearns
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part III|153 pages

Government instruments in countering terrorism and waging irregular warfare

chapter 25|13 pages

The Joint Terrorism Task Force

Investigating to disrupt and prosecute terrorists
ByAli Soufan
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chapter 26|13 pages

Creating the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau

ByMichael A. Sheehan
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chapter 29|10 pages

Social media recruitment of Americans

A case study from the Islamic State
ByAlexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, Seamus Hughes
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chapter 30|13 pages

Countering extremist organizations in the information domain

ByJoseph Mroszczyk, Max Abrahms
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chapter 31|11 pages

Theater Special Operations Command

The operational employment of U.S. Special Operations Forces
ByCharles T. Cleveland, Liam Collins
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chapter 32|13 pages

Theater command in Afghanistan

Taking charge of “The Other War” in 2003–2005
ByDavid W. Barno
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chapter 33|17 pages

America's drone wars outside of conventional war zones

ByPeter Bergen, A.G. Sims
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chapter 34|15 pages

The United Kingdom's approach to counterterrorism

ByRobin Simcox, Hannah Stuart
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chapter |10 pages


ByHy Rothstein
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