University of Washington

The War Against Al-Qaeda's Ideology: Reassessing U.S. Policy More than Nine Years after 9/11

Task Force Report
Expert Evaluation Presentation
Task Force Poster

Al-Qaeda declared war against the United States in 1996. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 made clear the true extent of the threat, the United States enacted a series of new policies to protect the country against attacks and to pursue Al-Qaeda and all affiliated violent extremist groups around the globe. From military action abroad, to the creation of several new government agencies at home, to new security measures to protect against attack, to the use of aggressive legal strategies to capture, detain and interrogate suspected terrorists, to the use of our special operations forces and intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorist networks and capture or kill their most dangerous operatives, the United States government dramatically changed its policies and operations to meet this threat from Al-Qaeda and those affiliated with or sympathetic to them. Which of these policies have succeeded? Which have failed? What is the proper measure of success or failure? Should our goal be to contain Al-Qaeda and their ideology as best as possible, or can we hope to defeat it outright? What exactly is Al-Qaeda’s ideology and where did it come from? How does the threat from Al-Qaeda compare to threats that have come from other terrorist organizations? What lessons can be learned from how some of these other threats were confronted? This Task Force will examine these questions and then put together a series of policy proposals for how best the United States should move forward in confronting the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and their ideology.



Task Force Instructor

The Honorable Adam Smith

Adam Smith has represented Washington's 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997, and he currently is the Ranking Member of the House Armed Service Committee. He previously served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Through his work in Congress, Smith has traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa where there are U.S. national security concerns.

Expert Evaluator



David Kilcullen

David Kilcullen is an Australian author and consultant on counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism who is the founder and CEO of Caerus Associates, a Washington D.C. based consultancy firm. He is a former Australian Army Royal Australian Infantry Corps Lieutenant Colonel and Analyst with the Australian Office of National Assessments. Kilcullen was seconded to the US Department of State Office of the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism as Chief Counter-terrorism Strategist and then was the Special Adviser for Counterinsurgency to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In 2007 he served as the Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser to the Commander of the Multi-National Force - Iraq General David Petraeus as a civilian position on his personal staff responsible for planning and executing the 2007-08 Joint Campaign Plan which drove the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. Kilcullen has a Doctor of Philosophy in Political anthropology from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy, focusing on the effects of guerrilla warfare on non-state political systems in traditional societies.


Sam Combs

Major: International Studies Track: Middle East
Throughout my time in the Jackson School, I have focused on the role of non-state actors within the Middle East. Having spent most of my time studying Hezbollah and how it functions within the Lebanese state, I felt it was critical to branch out and gain a more significant understanding of other non-state actors. Furthermore, as a future Air Force officer, it is critical that I am conversant in the issues that currently influence the Department of Defense and the US National Security Strategy.

Annie Van Hees
Major: International Studies
Minor: Italian
I originally chose this Task Force because I did not know much about the topic at hand and wanted to learn more. I have always been curious about the successes and failures of religious extremism. After spending some time in Israel, I became more intrigued by the multitude of complex problems surrounding the Middle East. I know that the issues regarding Al-Qaeda are, and will continue to be, crucial in order to better understand diplomacy and foreign policy.


Task Force Members

Alexander A. Bezovics

Major: International Studies, Political Science
Al-Qaeda and its extremist ideology have profoundly impacted American foreign policy in the last ten years. Because of the far reaching effects of Al-Qaeda’s fateful attack on September 11, it is now essential that I, and any other individual entering the realm of American foreign policy, have a strong knowledge of why they attacked us and how we can prevent it from happening again. I am a student of Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, and Peace and Security, and have worked in Washington, DC, on U.S.-Turkish relations. I intend to pursue a career of protecting American interests abroad

Joseph Corigliano

Major: International Studies
Specializing in the field of International Political Economy. Interest in studying U.S. foreign policy with the Middle East, national security studies, and Arabic. Task Force focus: improving U.S. policy to reduce Al-Qaeda’s funding from charities, individual benefactors and other financial sources in the Middle East.

Gillian Frackelton

Major: International Studies
I am particularly interested in studying the policy regarding Al-Qaeda and radical extremism because I think that it is the most pressing threat facing the United States. I have a solid background in studying foreign policy, specifically from the course American Foreign Policy that I took last year with Ambassador Johnson, and the summer that I spent as a Public Diplomacy intern at the State Department in Washington D.C. I chose this task force because I wanted to apply this background in policy to this specific topic because the fight against Al-Qaeda has become an ideological struggle, and there has not been a clear rhetoric or policy to combat Al-Qaeda’s propaganda and message.

Linn Gracey
Major: International Studies, European Studies (Double Degree)
Minor: Norwegian
Having done research on European fascism and communism, I have a continuing fascination with extremist ideology. Al-Qaeda is the modern-day representation of a group of radical individuals who have rather successfully exploited legitimate grievances in order to further their vision of the world through violence. The threats posed by al-Qaeda loom large, and it is of supreme importance to better understand this fringe group and their motives in light of increasing terrorist attacks, killing primarily innocent Muslims, and the issues of immigration and integration of Muslims into Western societies. As a dual citizen of the United States and Norway (and therein Sweden and Denmark, sites of recent terrorism attempts) I am personally invested in the stability and safety of both the European continent and the United States against terror. I desire to see a world free from the fear and savagery of terrorism, and a rejection of extremism in all of its forms. Coming to an understanding as to how this group came about, how they function and how they can be defeated is vital for an accurate interpretation of Islam as well as the ongoing stability and security of the globe.

Jonathan Humphrey

Majors: International Studies, Economics
For the last ten years, American foreign policy has been dominated by the struggle to contain Al-Qaeda, and there has been an ever increasing debate on the legitimacy of US policies. From an academic standpoint, the myriad interactions between the ethnographic literature, systems theories, and government policies surrounding the debate present an unrivaled opportunity not only to investigate US policy, but to gain a deeper appreciation of how policy is and should be formed. I am interested in the role US policies have on the spread of Al-Qaeda's ideology, given the emergence of many new contextualized insurgencies which pursue war against the US.

Joelle Jackson

Major: International Studies
Minor: Human Rights
I am excited to delve into the intricacies of detention and interrogation policy as it has a huge impact not only on our commitment to human rights but on our ability to extract maximum viable information from detainees. I am extremely passionate about topics such as racism, gender relations, and culture. On another note, I enjoy hiking, soy lattes, and overall silliness.

Alex Jeffers

Major: International Studies
I decided on this particular Task Force due to its rather practical topic of using government budgets as an effective tool to advocate for human rights. I am interested in the overall structure of overseas development assistance in the framework of the current global economy, with specific regards to its role in achieving the rights outlined by ICESCR. Furthermore, I am keen on exploring further the lesser-known but extremely important function of export credit agencies in international development, including their role in facilitating trade and financial flows between developed and developing countries.

Julie Mendel
Major: International Studies, JSIS Honors

My particular interest in the broader fight against al-Qaeda and its ideology revolves around the role development aid can play in appropriately and sustainably addressing the root causes of violent extremism. I am looking forward to learning more about how the United States can help shape stronger, more all-inclusive societies in the Middle East, as well as how a strengthened development agenda can positively redefine our role and relationships on an international level.

Grasilda Mincin

Major: International Studies
I am honored to be part of this Task Force, which has expanded my knowledge of U.S. foreign relations and America’s efforts to attain national security while al-Qaeda’s global narrative has attempted to undermine it. Having lived in Lebanon and Europe, coupled with my interest in the political economy of the Middle East has intensified my focus to combat global violent extremism and the threat it poses to the Unites States and its allies. Participating in the Task Force has provided a clear understanding of the threat and the need for a long-term strategy that promotes America’s values and global stability.

Peter Muller
Major: International Studies
Minor: Spanish

Our Task Force's focus on reevaluating America's fight against al-Qaeda interests me because I believe that America's relationship with the Muslim world seems to focus too heavily on defeating this group. President Obama and other leaders in American foreign policy have signaled a shift towards a more broad understanding of relations with the Muslim world based on establishing relationships outside of anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism. I want to explore the evolving battle against al-Qaeda over the last decade and explore current and possible engagements with the Muslim world that will both improve relations and help the U.S. gain strategic partners in the ideological battle against violent insurgent thought.

Aria Nazari

Major: International Studies
Minor: Political Science
I am interested in issues regarding religious radicalism because it is an emerging problem causing greater threat to our national security and our way of life. Having relatives abroad, who are recently persecuted by a theocratic government for their different religious beliefs, has made the issue even more personal and helped me understand the potential risks and greater threats from Trans National Non State Groups such as al-Qaeda. As I see it, the thought of al-Qaeda establishing a global caliphate and eliminating all other religious minorities poses greater concern to me about the future of the world than perhaps even the threat currently created by the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is why I chose to participate in this Task Force because the threat of religious fascism from TNGs is the biggest threat to everyone’s way of life.

Matthew Paulhus
Majors: International Studies Track: Security; History
Minor: Classical Studies
Since 9/11 I have always been interested in Islamic extremism, terrorism, and the religiosity of groups like al-Qaeda. As a result, I study why groups like al-Qaeda take hold in the world and how the US can respond through diplomatic, developmental, and defensive operations. This task force allows me to examine Yemen and Africa as emerging areas of potential al-Qaeda bases as well as understand the overall continuing threat of al-Qaeda to the US.

Vanja Radunovic

Major: International Studies Track: International Political Economy
Minor: Romance Languages and Literature: Italian
As a world class athlete, tennis has given me opportunities to travel all over the world, learn Italian, Spanish and English, as well as my native language, Montenegrin, and study at an excellent university in the United States. Coming from a developing country like Montenegro, learning about different cultures has allowed me to compare different political and cultural systems in the world. The international system is moving towards increasing global connectivity, integration and interdependence in the economic, social, technological, cultural, political and ecological spheres. I am interested in the development of each of these fields, fighting against the negative aspects of these fields and finding ways of improving the political and economic systems in developing countries such as my own.

Allison Stone
Major: International Studies Track: Global Health
I am researching the importance of intercultural interaction and engagement efforts between the United States and the Muslim world and the importance it holds in obtaining the goal of international cooperative coexistence. I find the interaction between people that exists outside of political diplomacy and military conflict to be fascinating and its power and efforts too often overlooked in countries with which the United States is in conflict. Communication, discussion and discovery allow for the human race to transcend differences and disprove misconceptions and stereotypes which create the distrust that lead to the clashing of nations and cultures.
Matthew Wright
Major: International Studies Track: Middle East
Near Eastern Languages and Civilization
I am interested in the U.S. response to al-Qaeda largely because it has shaped my young adult life. I served in Afghanistan in 2006 and studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. I have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, and I'm particularly interested in exploring the ways the U.S. can peacefully engage with the region while meeting the demands for security and prosperity.
Kristen Zipperer
Major: International Studies Track: South Asia Studies
Minor: Urdu; African Studies
The places that are currently hotbeds for Islamic militant groups I find to be deeply complex and beautiful. This Task Force has provided me with the opportunity to explore from the inside out the foundations and motivations upon which groups such as al-Qaeda have been built, a concept which is important to me not only because of the resonance events such as 9/11 have had on the American (and my own) consciousness but also because of my academic interest in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the larger region. It is my hope to someday work in these countries and I expect that the experience and knowledge I gained in this class will be valuable and pertinent.



Center for Global Studies
International Studies Program
University of Washington
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Sara R. Curran
Program Chair
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Sabine Lang
Associate Program Chair

Lauren Dobrovolny
Program Coordinator
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