The Training of Terrorist Organizations


by Major David E. Smith USMC




Is there a worldwide terrorist training apparatus?


During the l96O's the Soviet Union and its communist satellites deliberately provided training to terrorist organizations in order to further their political and diplomatic aims and to destabilize the West. They were instrumental in nurturing the skills employed by terrorists during the l96O's, 7O's, and 8O's. By the time the USSR collapsed and the Warsaw Pact disintegrated, communist supported training was no longer vital to sustain terrorism. Other groups, employing a variety of training techniques, were able to take their place. Nations such as Iran and Syria trained and supported terrorists to influence world events and further their political agendas, while retaining a cloak of deniability for their leaders. Many nationalist, religious, and ethnic groups have also developed self sustaining terrorist organizations such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army with their own independent training programs.


There is no present evidence of a worldwide terrorist training apparatus. The world has fragmented into numerous competing camps and terrorist training is conducted along regional, ethnic, and religious lines. There are many similarities in the training programs of successful terrorist organizations, and the trends are towards less restraint and more violent operations.


Terrorism has been a worldwide phenomenon for hundreds ofyears. Significant collusion among groups was not evident until the l96O's when the Soviet Union embarked upon a coordinated effort to

bolster movements it believed would further its political objectives. The training it provided itself, and through its surrogates, was the genesis of knowledge that would ultimately spread to the majority of the world's terrorist organizations. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed, it was no longer a vital component in the terrorist training arena. Other groups, employing a variety of techniques and methods, had taken its place. Those groups generated personnel with, or without, a wide range of skills. This paper will recount historical trends concerning terrorist training methods in order to determine what current patterns, if any, exist. It will end with conclusions, aswell as with predictions of future trends in the area. Prior to discussing historical patterns of terrorist training it isessential to make sure the reader has a basic understanding of who aterrorist is and how the typical terrorist group is organized. Thereare innumerable definitions of terrorism. For the purpose of thispaper we will employ the definition used in Title 22 of the UnitedStates Code, Section 2656 f (d) "premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnationalgroups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence anaudience." Acts of terrorism are committed throughout the world by a myriad of groups. All successful (enduring) groups exhibit some organizational similarities that have contributed to their longevity.