Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting Al-Qa`ida’s Organizational Vulnerabilities

Publication Year
The Harmony Project

In the text of newly-released al-Qa’ida documents captured during recent operations in support of the Global War on Terror and maintained in the Department of Defense’s Harmony database, readers will see how explicit al-Qa’ida has been in its internal discussions covering a range of organizational issues, particularly regarding the internal structure and functioning of the movement as well as with tensions that emerged within the leadership.

The first part of the report draws on scholarly approaches including organization and agency theory, to predict where we should expect terrorist groups to face their greatest challenges in conducting operations. This theoretical framework is informed as much as possible by the captured documents, and provides a foundation upon which scholars can build as more of these documents are declassified and released to the public.

Our analysis stresses that, by their nature, terrorist organizations such as al-Qa’ida face difficulties in almost any operational environment, particularly in terms of maintaining situational awareness, controlling the use of violence to achieve specified political ends, and preventing local authorities from degrading the group’s capabilities. But they also face problems common to other types of organizations.


Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa’ida’s Organizational Vulnerabilities. With Joseph H. Felter,  Jarrett Brachman, and James Forest. Westpoint, N.Y.: Combating Terrorism Center, February 14 2006.

Publication Topic
Civil War, Insurgency, and Terrorism
Publication Type
Policy Report