Combating Terrorism Center

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Group.png Combating Terrorism Center  
(CounterterrorismPowerbase WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Interests“terrorism”, weapons of mass destruction

The Combating Terrorism Center at the US West Point Military Academy is focused on "terrorism", counterterrorism, homeland security, and weapons of mass destruction. West Point CTC was officially launched in February 2003 within the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy, and was funded by Vincent Viola, Chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and "a 1977 graduate of West Point"[1]



GEN (r) John P. Abizaid - Distinguished Chair | LTC Joseph Felter - CTC Director | MAJ Scott Taylor - Executive Officer | Dr Jarret Brachman - Director of Research | Dr James Forest - Director of Terrorism Studies | Dr Assaf Moghadam - Instructor and Research Associate | Bill Braniff - FBI Program Manager | Brian Fishman - Instructor and Senior Associate | Ms Heidi Weber - FBI Operations Officer | Ms Treshelle Griffith - Office Automations Assistant | Ms Irina Garrido de Stanton - Office Administrator

Senior Fellows

Bruce Hoffman | David Franz | AMB Michael Sheehan

FBI Fellows

Dr William McCants | Mr Sammy Salama | Mr Dan Coleman | Mr Bob Fromme | Dr Rebecca Molloy | Mr Chris Heffelfinger

Department of Social Sciences

COL Michael J Meese - Department Head | COL Cindy R Jebb - Deputy Department Head

CTC Associates

LTC Isaiah Wilson | MAJ Paul Stanton | MAJ Fernando Lujan | Dr Ruth Beitler | Dr Matthew Levitt | Mr Guy Filipelli | Dr Frederick Moxley | MAJ Lorenzo Rios

Harmony Fellows

Mr Vahid Brown | Mr Jacob N. Shapiro | Mr Warren Polensky

Former Members

Major Jeff Bramlett was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences and an Associate of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point from 2004-2007. He is a career Infantry Officer and is currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth attending ILE at Fort Leavenworth, KS. | Colonel Joseph Felter was the CTC Director and an instructor in the USMA "terrorism" studies program from 2005-2008. Prior to coming to the CTC, LTC Felter was a Special Forces and Foreign Area Officer. | Mr Brian Fishman was the Director of Research at the CTC. | Mr Kelly Hicks | Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hornbarger is currently serving as a Policy & Plans Officer in Iraq. While at the CTC, LTC Hornbarger focused his research on U.S. Homeland Security policy and planning. | Brigadier General (retired) Russell Howard is the Founding Director of the Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies at The Fletcher School. Prior to assuming his current responsibilities, General Howard was the Head of the Department of Social Sciences and the Founding Director and Senior Fellow of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. | Lianne Kennedy-Boudali was an instructor in the Department of Social Sciences and an Associate at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point from 2005-2007. She now works at RAND Corporation in Washington D.C. | Colonel Kip McCormick is currently serving as the Defense and Army Attache at the US Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. He was formerly the director of USMA's Combating Terrorism Center and an instructor in USMA's "terrorism" studies program. | Major Joanne Moore was the first Director of the CTC. | Mr. Bill Perkins is a former Army Officer and Operations Officer at the CTC. He is currently completing his Masters degree at Carnegie Mellon University. | Major Scott Taylor is a former Deputy Director at the CTC. | Ms Thalia Tzanetti | Mr Stephen Ulph | Major Jim Walker is currently a Military Police Battalion Operations Officer in Afghanistan. While at the CTC, MAJ Walker focused his research on "terrorism" financing. | Major Rick Wrona was an International Relations Instructor in the Department of Social Sciences from 2004-2007 and an Associate of the Combating Terrorism Center where his research focused on Hezbollah. Rick served in various Airborne Infantry leadership positions before teaching at West Point and now serves as a Strategist at EUCOM in Stuttgart, Germany.[2]

Sinjar Records

In 2007, West Point CTC published "Al Qaeda's Foreign Fighters in Iraq – A First Look at the Sinjar Records":

On 4 December 2007, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the reputed Emir of Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), claimed that his organisation was almost purely Iraqi, containing only 200 foreign fighters. Twelve days later, on 16 December 2007, Ayman al-Zawahri urged Sunnis in Iraq to unite behind ISIL. Both statements are part of Al Qaeda’s ongoing struggle to appeal to Iraqis, many of whom resent the ISI’s foreign leadership and its desire to impose strict Islamic law.

In November 2007, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point received nearly 700 records of foreign nationals that entered Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007. The data compiled and analysed in this report is drawn from these personnel records, which was collected by Al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliates, first the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) and then the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). The records contain varying levels of information on each fighter, but often include the fighter’s country of origin, hometown, age, occupation, the name of the fighter’s recruiter, and even the route the fighter took to Iraq. The records were captured by coalition forces in October 2007 in a raid near Sinjar, along Iraq’s Syrian border. Although there is some ambiguity in the data, it is likely that all of the fighters listed in the Sinjar Records crossed into Iraq from Syria. The Sinjar Records’ existence was first reported by the New York Times' Richard Oppel, who was provided with a partial summary of the data.[3]

Derna, suicide bomber heaven

According to Webster Tarpley:

The most striking finding which emerges from the West Point CTC study is that the corridor which goes from Benghazi to Tobruk, passing through the city of Derna then represented one of the greatest concentrations of jihadi terrorists to be found anywhere in the world, and by some measures can be regarded as the leading source of suicide bombers anywhere on the planet. Derna, with one terrorist fighter sent into Iraq to kill Americans for every 1,000 to 1,500 persons of population, emerges as suicide bomber heaven, easily surpassing the closest competitor, which was Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

According to West Point authors Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, Saudi Arabia took first place as regards absolute numbers of jihadis sent to combat the United States and other coalition members in Iraq during the time frame in question. Libya, a country less than one fourth as populous, took second place. Saudi Arabia sent 41% of the fighters. According to Felter and Fishman, “Libya was the next most common country of origin, with 18.8% (112) of the fighters listing their nationality stating they hailed from Libya.” Other much larger countries were far behind: “Syria, Yemen, and Algeria were the next most common origin countries with 8.2% (49), 8.1% (48), and 7.2% (43), respectively. Moroccans accounted for 6.1% (36) of the records and Jordanians 1.9%."

This means that almost one fifth of the foreign fighters entering Iraq across the Syrian border came from Libya, a country of just over 6 million people. A higher proportion of Libyans were interested in fighting in Iraq than any other country contributing mujahedeen. Felter and Fishman point out:

“Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia.”[4]


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Aaron WeisburdInstructorAugust 2007January 2013
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