Monday, June 10, 2013


Can terrorists be rehabilitated? Some think so. Terrorists released from Guantanamo and many militants captured in the Middle East go through rehabilitation programs. In fact, the Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center in Saudi Arabia has more successes than failures. Captured terrorists are given a full presentation of Islam and learn how to be a good Muslim along with getting a better understanding of Islam. They go through art therapy, psychological counseling, and are given money and help finding a wife and job upon graduation.

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Of the 100 terrorists suspects released from Guantanamo, about 10% resumed terrorist activities. That means 90% who went through rehabilitation remained true to the peaceful virtues of Islam. That's better than the recidivism rate of common criminals who go  through the U.S. penal system.

The Saudi Arabian Hohammed bin Nayef Center is a thorough rehab program and Yemen follows its curriculum. More informal terrorist rehab efforts can be found in Indonesia and Libya. In fact, Moammar Gaddafi's son is a leader in Libya's efforts to rehabilitate terrorists.

According to the Kuwait News Agency, security cooperation between the US National Security Council and Yemen has been enhanced. Yemeni Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mather Rashad Al-Masri recently met with the US NSC several years ago. On their agenda was a strategy aimed at rehabilitating and reintroducing terrorist offenders and co-conspirators back into society. Since then, many al Qaeda fighters in Yemen have surrendered. 

Joint coordination on this program is expected, according to the Yemeni Interior Ministry. Al-Masri said his country was practicing significant efforts in reintroducing repentant terrorists into the society, through forming a dialogue committee that includes experts on terrorist behavior. Al-Masri reports considerable success in their rehabilitation drive.
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The success of terrorist rehabilitation depends on the ideology of the citizens. For that reason, I reviewed polls conducted on various Yemen news outlets. One on-going poll in a leading Yemen newspaper asked, “Will U.S. troops be welcomed in Yemen in the fight against Al-Qaeda?” The results: 24% = YES, 76% = NO Perhaps, in additon to rehab, the number of terrorist in Yeman can be lessened considerable by NOT resorting to large U.S. troop deployments. Instead, being the Arab world's poorest country, Yemen's efforts to battle homegrown terrorism depends heavily on financial aid from the U.S., Europe, its richer Arab neighbors and the world's monetary fund agencies.

Coordinated efforts with small-scale special op and drone attacks, HUMINT undercover agents embedded by the CIA and DOD, satellite surveillance, and continued "as needed" attacks by the USAF from off-shore carriers will keep the U.S. profile low.

So, no foreign troops on the ground + increased financial assistance will enhance the effectiveness of terrorist rehabilitation efforts, both in Yemen and elsewhere. That does not mean we will not hunt down and kill terrorist through covert means. Ironically, the infamous Wikileaks reports from leaked diplomatic cables indicated that Yemen covered up U.S. strikes on al-Qaeda in Yemen. Rashad al-Alimi, Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defence Affairs, was asked to attend parliament to discuss the content of the secret U.S. documents which indicated that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh  told General David Petraeus, then American commander in the Middle East: "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."

Not long ago, American security officials stated that Washington intended to increase air strikes against AQAP. It appears that these top secret documents are true...why would they be false? I hope the documents are true and support limited USAF air strikes on militants, for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will only grow stronger without such help. If we don't take the above-mentioned measures, look for more parcel bombs being sent to the United States.
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I also believe that both a "carrot and stick" approach is more effective than using just the carrot or just the stick. Many walk away from terrorism (photo right). Several years ago, 90 Yemenis prisoners left Guantanamo. The U.S. would not release them until Yemen authorities built a center where they entered full-time rehabilitation. If the rehab center wasn't built, the U.S. planned to send each Yemenis Guantanamo inmate to Saudi Arabia.

I believe there's a lesson here that should be integrated into the current debate as to what to do with the Guantanamo prisoners. The U.S. should heavily fund and research this proposed terrorist reform strategy, use it as a pilot project and spread it's use throughout the world, including inside America's borders. At the same time, we should hunt down and preemptively kill terrorists as they plan to wreak
havoc upon the West.

The "carrot and stick" complement each other in unexpected ways. During America's beginning war against teen drug use and abuse, the "stick" was used in the form of zero tolerance. School administrators dug their heels in and any teen caught possessing drugs in or around a school building was expelled, arrested, and sent to the nearest juvenile detention center (JDC). Not surprisingly, teen drug abuse went further underground and actually expanded. Then, some far-thinking person asked, "Why not add that if drug-abusing teens turned themselves in to school authorities, they would not be kicked out and prosecuted, but instead enter a drug-abuse rehab 

When the non-punitive "carrot" of rehabilitation was introduced, teen drug usage diminished because the unexpected happened. Brothers, sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents, aunts and uncles of teens with substance-abuse problems went to school authorities and turned their loved ones in! More teens drug abusers were found, treated, and sent back to normal living. At the same time, hardcore drug abusing teens who were caught pushing drugs or committing crimes to pay for their drug habit received the "stick"...sent to JDC. But, they still had to experience the "carrot" and go through rehab. 

Now, relate this approach to terrorist rehabilitation. Could unexpected consequences arise if this "carrot and stick" approach spread throughout the middle east? It would be nice if terrorists were turned-in to authorities by their loved ones or simply gave themselves up to the rehab option, which they heretofore did not have. That in itself would save many lives in the long run.

Robert Morton, Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy novel series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean".  The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Contact him on the Secure Contact Form

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