A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

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In this video, Unconventional Weapons and Technology (UWT) Director Steve Sin and UWT researchers Megan Rutter and Rhyner Washburn provide a virtual talk on the findings from their project “Developing Impact and Effectiveness Assessment Tool for Influence Operations.” Strategic adversaries and competitors of the United States have come to view influence operations as an effective, low-cost, and low consequence (for the influencer) means of advancing their goals and agendas. Given our adversaries and competitors’ view of influence operations, and the immense implications and potential consequences of them, there is a need for research that will advance the state of the art in detecting, characterizing, and countering state-sponsored influence operations. While there is a large volume of work that has been done to understand the nature and effects of influence operations, as well as exploring various methods to counter them, there is a dearth of work that examines how one can measure the impact and effectiveness of influence operations. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government.

Event Coverage

In this video, START Associate Research Scientist Dr. Elizabeth Radziszewski provides a virtual talk on her book, “Private Militaries and the Security Industry in Civil Wars: Competition and Market Accountability.” Whether they train police forces in Afghanistan or provide military assistance to governments in Africa that are battling rebel groups, private military and security companies (PMSCs), or corporations that provide security and military services for profit, have been present in numerous conflicts around the globe. In 1984 only one international PMSC intervened in a civil war; in 1989 there were 15 international PMSCs present in conflict zones, while from 2003 to 2019 over 120 of such companies provided services during the Iraq war. Why do international PMSCs sometimes help with conflict termination while in other cases their intervention is associated with prolonged wars? And in what ways does market competition affect PMSCs’ military effectiveness? Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government. 

Event Coverage

In this video, Washington Institute for Near East Policy Associate Fellow Ido Levy provides a virtual talk on his book, Soldiers of End-Times: Assessing the Military Effectiveness of the Islamic State. In 2014, the Islamic State shocked the world when it defeated national armies on the battlefield and seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. The group’s military success can be traced to four key variables: organizational innovation, shaping operations, will to fight, and a knack for retaining the initiative. The IS military project led not only to the declaration of a “caliphate,” but to the proliferation of jihadist franchises that devastated countries, displaced millions, and killed tens of thousands. Yet the group’s weaknesses ultimately led to the collapse of its territorial achievement. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government. 

Event Coverage

In this video, SUNY Albany Professor Victor Asal, University of Essex Reader Brian J. Phillips and University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean R. Karl Rethemeyer provide a virtual talk on their new START-Oxford University Press book, “Insurgent Terrorism: Intergroup Relationships and the Killing of Civilians.”

Insurgent groups consist of individuals willing to organize and commit acts of terror to achieve their goals. By nature, they depend on public support, yet they sometimes target private civilians in addition to military personnel and government officials. This book examines insurgent embeddedness--the extent to which an insurgent group is enmeshed in relationships with the state, other insurgents, and the public--in order to understand why they attack civilians.

Using Big Allied and Dangerous (BAAD) as the dataset, this book drills into civilian attacks in specific contexts, including schools, news media, and nonmilitary/nongovernment spaces designed for the general public. This book goes one step further, presenting in-depth analyses of intergroup alliances and rivalries, their changes and determinants over time, and the implications for several types of bloodshed against civilians.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government.

Event Coverage

This video features the final session of the 2021 Webinar Series: Migration, Security and Regional Militancy in Sabah and the Greater Sulu Celebes Sea, co-hosted by the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the International Islamic University Malaysia, and START. This series is part of the research project “Divergent Dimensions of Radicalization Risk: Migration and Violent Extremism in Sabah,” which focuses on security issues in Sabah, Malaysia.

This webinar series aims to provide awareness, knowledge-transfer, and capacity-building in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) based on research findings on pertinent issues related to security, migration and regional militancy in Sabah and the greater Sulu Celebes Sea. The first session explores Divergent Dimensions of Radicalization Risk: Migration and Violent Extremism in Sabah & Navigating Research Management During Pandemic. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government.

Event Coverage

This video features the second session of the 2021 Webinar Series: Migration, Security and Regional Militancy in Sabah and the Greater Sulu Celebes Sea, co-hosted by the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the International Islamic University Malaysia, and START. This series is part of the research project “Divergent Dimensions of Radicalization Risk: Migration and Violent Extremism in Sabah,” which focuses on security issues in Sabah, Malaysia.

This webinar series aims to provide awareness, knowledge-transfer, and capacity-building in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) based on research findings on pertinent issues related to security, migration and regional militancy in Sabah and the greater Sulu Celebes Sea. The first session explores Divergent Dimensions of Radicalization Risk: Migration and Violent Extremism in Sabah & Navigating Research Management During Pandemic. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government.

Event Coverage

This video features the first session of the 2021 Webinar Series: Migration, Security and Regional Militancy in Sabah and the Greater Sulu Celebes Sea, co-hosted by the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the International Islamic University Malaysia, and START. This series is part of the research project “Divergent Dimensions of Radicalization Risk: Migration and Violent Extremism in Sabah,” which focuses on security issues in Sabah, Malaysia.

This webinar series aims to provide awareness, knowledge-transfer, and capacity-building in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) based on research findings on pertinent issues related to security, migration and regional militancy in Sabah and the greater Sulu Celebes Sea. The first session explores Divergent Dimensions of Radicalization Risk: Migration and Violent Extremism in Sabah & Navigating Research Management During Pandemic. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government.

Event Coverage

In this video, Egle E. Murauskaite and Devin H. Ellis brief the insights from the Escalation Management project with a broad audience of U.S. experts and security practitioners in an online seminar hosted by NSI, Inc. Drawing on the International Crisis Behavior (ICB) database, they discuss the link between proxy involvement and the use of violence in international crises. Their findings challenge the popular belief that the use of proxies is a good way to minimize costs for a state involved in a conflict, and point to the broad escalation potential in crises involving proxies. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government.

This event is the latest in NSI’s SMA Speaker Series, which features leading experts discussing major challenges facing Combatant Commands, allies, and the world. Event archives include: audio or video recordings when available, written summaries of presentations, and speaker bios and briefing materials. If you would like to sign up to receive event invitations for the SMA Speaker Series, contact Nicole Peterson at npeterson@nsiteam.com.

Event Coverage

In this video, START Director William Braniff offers a virtual lecture titled "A Tale of Two Caliphates,” comparing and contrasting al-Qa’ida’s global jihadist agenda with that of the Islamic State, considering the implications of the competition between the two, and offering a grand-strategic response to the enduring threat posed by both. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government. Please send an email to start-events@umd.edu to receive a link to a recording with closed captions.

Event Coverage

In this video, WMD Warfare and Drone Swarms Analyst Zachary Kallenborn provides a virtual talk on “Swarms of Mass Destruction: Are Drone Swarms Weapons of Mass Destruction?” moderated by START researcher Steve Sin. From the United States to China and Spain, numerous states are developing drone swarms. The technology has the potential to become a new weapon of destruction akin to chemical weapons, non-contagious biological weapons, and potentially low-yield nuclear weapons. Armed, fully autonomous drone swarms can bypass any arbitrary threshold for "mass destruction" and the limits of autonomous decision-making coupled with the complexity of swarms means the weapons cannot effectively discriminate between civilian and military targets. In considering traditional WMD roles, drone swarms could be effective mass casualty weapons, but are not likely to be effective strategic deterrents. Drone swarms could be useful anti-access/ area-denial and assassination weapons, depending on context. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of START, the University of Maryland or the United States government. 

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