Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations  book cover
1st Edition

Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations

ISBN 9780367758363
Published July 15, 2021 by Routledge
550 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping
SAVE $50.00
was $250.00
USD $200.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This handbook comprises essays by leading scholars and practitioners on the topic of U.S. counterterrorism and irregular warfare campaigns and operations around the globe.

Terrorist groups have evolved substantially since 9/11, with the Islamic State often described as a pseudo-state, a terrorist group, and insurgency all at the same time. While researchers', analysts', and policymakers’ understanding of terrorism has grown immensely over the past two decades, similar advancements in the understanding of counterterrorism lag. As such, this handbook explains why it is necessary to take a broader view of counterterrorism which can, and often does, include irregular warfare.

The volume is divided into three thematic sections:

  • Part I examines modern terrorism in the Islamic world and gives an overview of the major terrorist groups from the past three decades;
  • Part II provides a wide variety of case studies of counterterrorism and irregular warfare operations, spanning from the 1980s to the irregular warfare campaign against the Islamic State in northern Syria in 2018;
  • Part III examines the government instruments used to combat terrorism and wage irregular warfare, such as drones, Theater Special Operations Commands, and Theater Commands.

The handbook fills a gap in the traditional counterterrorism literature by its inclusion of irregular warfare and by providing analyses from academic experts as well as practitioners. It will be of much interest to students of counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, U.S. national security, military affairs, and International Relations.

The Open Access version of this book, available at, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

Table of Contents


Liam Collins

Part I: The Threat and Regional Security Issues

1. The Evolution of Islamist Terrorism in the 20th Century

James J.F. Forest

2. The Ideology Behind Al-Qaida and the Islamic State

Daniel Rudder and Chris Heffelfinger

3. The Evolution of Al-Qaida: 1988 to Present Day

Seth G. Jones

4. The History of the Islamic State: From Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Brian Fishman

5. Contemporary Conflict and Political Violence in the Levant

Benedetta Berti

6. Jihadi Militancy and Houthi Insurgency in Yemen

Elisabeth Kendall

7. The Roots of Terrorism in North and West Africa: AQIM and Boko Haram

Alice Hunt Friend

8. Al-Shabaab and the Horn of Africa

Ken Menkhaus

9. The History of Terrorism in Southeast Asia

Peter Chalk

10. The Taliban and the Modern History of Afghanistan

Rob Johnson

11. The Modern History of Iran and the Birth of the Shia Proxy Model

Alex Vatanka

12. Terrorism, Insurgency, and Criminal Insurgency in Latin America

Román D. Ortiz

Part II: Operational Case Studies

13. El Salvador: Operations and Planning Assistance Training Teams and a Minimalist Approach to Counterinsurgency

Cecil E. Bailey

14. Plan Colombia and the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group

Kevin M. Higgins

15. The Story of the U.S. Role in the Killing of Pablo Escobar

Mark Bowden

16. The Iran-Contra Affair and the Afghan Task Force: Lessons in Covert Action

Jack Devine and Amanda Mattingly

17. The Horse Soldiers: Lessons from Expeditionary Unconventional Warfare

Mark E. Mitchell

18. Special Operations Forces and Afghan Local Police Programs

Donald C. Bolduc and Chris Hensley

19. U.S. Civilian Architecture for Stabilization and Counterinsurgency in Northern Afghanistan (2012-2013)

Keith Mines

20. Dismantling Al-Qaida in Iraq

Liam Collins

21. Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines: Lessons in Special Warfare

David S. Maxwell

22. Operation Serval: A Swift Intervention with a Small Footprint in Mali

Michael A. Sheehan and Pascale C. Siegel

23. U.S. Counterterrorism Policy in Yemen from 2010-2020

Luke Hartig

24. Defeating the Islamic State: Special Operations Forces in Syria

Anthony Messenger, Nick Lewis-Walls, Mike Parker, Bert Pedrigi and David P. Kearns

Part III: Government Instruments in Countering Terrorism and Waging Irregular Warfare

25. The Joint Terrorism Task Force: Investigating to Disrupt and Prosecute Terrorists

Ali Soufan

26. Creating the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau

Michael A. Sheehan

27. The Inside Story of How the NYPD’s Intelligence Division Adapted in the Wake of 9/11

David Cohen

28. Lessons Learned from Four High Casualty Terrorist Attacks in the United States Since 9/11

Paul Cruickshank

29. Social Media Recruitment of Americans: A Case Study from the Islamic State

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Seamus Hughes

30. Countering Extremist Organizations in the Information Domain

Joseph Mroszczyk and Max Abrahms

31. Theater Special Operations Commands: The Combat Employment of U.S. Special Operations Forces

Charles T. Cleveland and Liam Collins

32. Theater Command in Afghanistan: Taking Charge of the ‘Other War’ in 2003-2005

David W. Barno

33. America’s Drone Wars Outside of Conventional War Zones

Peter Bergen and A.G. Sims

34. The United Kingdom’s Approach to Counterterrorism

Robin Simcox and Hannah Stuart


Hy Rothstein

View More



The late Michael A. Sheehan previously served as the U.S. Department of State’s coordinator for counterterrorism, the New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, and the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict.

Erich Marquardt founded the U.S. military’s premier open-source counterterrorism journal, the CTC Sentinel, and served as editor-in-chief for seven years.

Liam Collins is a fellow at New America, former director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and founding director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. He co-authored Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?, the first report to analyze the documents captured from Bin Ladin’s compound during the Abbottabad raid.


'A unique, exceptional volume of compelling, thoughtful, and informative essays on the subjects of irregular warfare, counter-insurgency, and counter-terrorism – endeavors that will, unfortunately, continue to be unavoidable and necessary, even as the U.S. and our allies and partners shift our focus to Asia and the Pacific in an era of renewed great power rivalries. The co-editors – the late Michael Sheehan, a brilliant comrade in uniform and beyond, Liam Collins, one of America’s most talented and accomplished special operators and scholars on these subjects, and Erich Marquardt, the founding editor of the CTC Sentinel – have done a masterful job of assembling the works of the best and brightest on these subjects – subjects that will continue to demand our attention, resources, and commitment.'

General (ret.) David Petraeus, former Commander of the Surge in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and former Director of the CIA

'Terrorism will continue to be a featured security challenge for the foreseeable future. We need to be careful about losing the intellectual and practical expertise hard-won over the last twenty years. This handbook, the brainchild of my late friend and longtime counter-terrorism expert Michael Sheehan, is an extraordinary resource for future policymakers and CT practitioners who will grapple with the evolving terrorism threat.'

General (ret.) Joseph Votel, former commander of US Special Operations Command and US Central Command

'This volume will be essential reading for a new generation of practitioners and scholars. Providing vibrant first-hand accounts from experts in counterterrorism and irregular warfare, from 9/11 until the present, this book presents a blueprint of recent efforts and impending challenges. Terrorism is a perpetual threat, one that never goes away, but requires expertise and attention to compress its scale and scope. These essays provide the way forward.

Nancy Collins, author of Grey Wars and senior fellow of the Modern War Institute, West Point


'The post-9/11 literature on counterterrorism has been dominated by academics and policy practitioners. The Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations widens the existing scope of scholarship on terrorism and counterterrorism by adding a critically important operational perspective to the discussion. Conceived by the legendary Ambassador Michael Sheehan, the handbook assembles a stellar cast of contributors in a unique volume that will enlighten and inspire all those who take part and interest in the ongoing effort to stem one of the most pressing security challenges of our time--from scholars to decisionmakers, and from policy practitioners to military operators.'

Assaf Moghadam, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel, author of Nexus of Global Jihad: Understanding Cooperation among Terrorist Actors

'The Routledge Handbook of US Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations consolidates and advances our understanding of the American experience at war since the mass murder attacks of September 11, 2001. It is a book that should be read and discussed beyond the military, as the contributors’ findings are consistent with Sir Michael Howard’s observation that, in war, the causes of victory or defeat are often found far from the battlefield.'

Lt.-General (ret.) H.R. McMaster, former US National Security Advisor and author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World


'An incredible effort, the volume is a testament to the legacy of Michael Sheehan, the lead editor and former U.S. ambassador at large for counterterrorism who died before publication. ...Strengths of this volume include the incredible breadth of material in an accessible format. Despite occasional military and academic jargon, the prose and material are designed for the practitioner or informed reader. As an edited volume, chapters do not necessarily flow from one to another, but together, they paint a comprehensive picture of the state of irregular warfare in the United States. This important work will be a longstanding reference for the military’s irregular warfare community.'--Maj. Zachary Griffiths, ARMY magazine, Fe. 2022