Assessing border permeability : a geospatial analysis of insurgent mobility
Abstract[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] As the propensity for irregular warfare grows in the 21st century, understanding the potential for movement across borderlands will be essential to battlespace awareness. Recent history of U.S. military engagements has demonstrated adversarial insurgency tactics in Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It is within such theatres terrorist groups perpetrate the vast majority of attacks, in the form of insurgencies. Foremost among these groups are the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida, operating within the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), operating within the Syria/Iraq border region. Additionally, elements of Al-Qa'ida and ISIL have found safe havens among other unstable governments throughout the Near East. Contrary to common public perception, Scheuer (2004) and Brachman (2009) suggest a conscious effort on the part of the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida to face the U.S. in the form of a modern insurgency, as opposed to strictly terrorism. Notable Al Qa'ida members Abu 'Ubayd al-Qurashi and Abu Bakr al-Naji have mentioned Mao Zedong and Western guerilla warfare literature of Taber and Lind as major influences. Insurgencies exist in a wide variety of locales, with a wide variety of populations, under an even wider variety of environmental conditions. Counterinsurgency, therefore, is a complex undertaking offering no single panacea. Kilcullen (2010) examines critical 'links' of insurgencies, including freedom of movement across state borders, where insurgents were able to utilize cross-border activities as a conduit for planning, preparation, and operations against their target. To better understand this dynamic, a geographic analysis framework is proposed to identify and analyze potential corridors spanning borderlands. In particular, this thesis investigates human and physical aspects of borderland corridors that may facilitate movement and concealment across the Syria/Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan borders. The results obtained from this research provide a geographic model to better inform decision makers on the permeability of cross-border regions, and to visualize and reason the dynamics of the operational environment.