Terrorism: Military tactics are not the only option

A new approach to terrorism: military tactics are not the only option

A University of Kent expert in International Conflict Analysis who investigates conflict resolution approaches to terrorism presents a new critique of the effectiveness of traditional counter terrorism measures, advising they are not the only option.

In a paper published by NATO's Centre of Excellence, Dr Harmonie Toros, a member of the University's Conflict Analysis Research Group, says countries could 'break out of the counter terrorism strait jacket' if they understood that terrorism should not be tackled as isolated forms of violence.

Currently mainstream counter terrorism incorporates military tactics and strategies, law enforcement and intelligence work to combat or prevent terrorism. Dr Toros recommends a broader approach of communication before groups turn to violence as well as examining the potential for negotiations once violence has started.

Dr Toros' research lies at the crossroad between conflict resolution and terrorism studies. She has published works examining the transformation of conflicts marked by terrorist violence, focusing in particular on Northern Ireland and on the southern Philippine province of Mindanao where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been fighting for independence for three decades.

Her findings suggest that:

  • Conflict prevention can help avoid the turn to terrorist violence and can lead to a de-escalation of such violence or the marginalisation of violent groups among broader social movements
  • Negotiation is an option that has successfully prevented conflicts in the past.
  • Direct negotiations are unlikely to be adopted by NATO as they could potentially be a challenge to political, social, and economic positions of member states
  • The Alliance can however ensure that its policies do not hinder the possibility of peacemaking by avoiding campaigns that vilify or demonise non-state armed groups
  • A conflict resolution approach requires that NATO examines the effects of its counterterrorism strategy on the broader conflict to avoid exacerbation of underlying grievances or triggering a further escalation of violence
  • NATO can ensure that its peacebuilding strategies are based on locally driven priorities and processes and do not lead to an increase in tensions due to opposition to a top-down Western-led approach
  • Member states can adopt a conflict resolution approach to terrorist violence.
  • Engaging in a conflict resolution approach does not guarantee an end to terrorist violence but neither will it automatically undermine the legitimacy of states or international organisations


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Notes to editors

(1) Dr Harmonie Toros has worked as reporter and editor for major international news agencies (The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse) for eight years in Turkey, Italy, France, and the United States, before returning to academia in 2003.

She is the author of Terrorism, Talking and Transformation: A Critical Approach (Routledge, 2012), editor of Researching Terrorism, Peace and Conflict Studies: Interaction, Synthesis and Opposition (Routledge, 2015), and is an editor of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism.

(2) Established in 1965, the University of Kent — the UK's European university — now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

Media Contact

Sandy Fleming
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