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Terrorist vs. Feds: Who will win?

With the recent advances to break up al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, this week’s attacks in Saudi Arabia came as a shock to many, even though such attacks have to be expected.

What the public often forgets is the odds that an organization like the Department of Homeland Security – the good guys — has in its fight against terrorists — the bad guys.

If history taught us anything, it is that there is no magic solution that has terrorism vanish over night. If this solution existed, the history of Northern Ireland, Israel and Vietnam would look a lot different.

This is why even after 100 days of operations, the Department of Homeland Security still cannot conclusively say how many sleeper cells or individuals of al-Qaida still remain in the United States.

What makes this battle so futile at times is the simple logical advantage terrorists have in their fight against who they perceive as their enemy.

One basic rule of guerrilla warfare, the basic principle on which such terrorist cells operate, is that no cell should know the whereabouts, agendas and members of other cells. Terrorists normally receive precise information on planned operations only on a need-to-know basis.

In the case of the hijackers of 9-11, authorities even believe that some of the individuals involved in this plot did not know about the intended goals. Some could have only known that a plane was going to be hijacked, but not that it was a suicide mission.

Such cells, like the one raided in Buffalo in September of the 2002, are therefore unlikely to have information about plots their leaders are planning.

Another fact of guerilla warfare is that the fighters are willing to give their lives.

Due to this simple fact, measures taken by terrorists are often very extreme and frequently involve suicide attacks, such as the ones in Saudi Arabia in which all of the attackers involved died.

As the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies such as FBI and CIA, have to try every single day to avert such attacks, it is only a matter of time before one of these plots succeed.

The simple reason for this is that the departments have to avert every single one of such attempted plots, but the terrorists are prepared to take the losses to have even one or two succeed.