There are many terrorist groups found in different parts of the world, and each has its unique reasons for existence. The structure of a terrorist group determines its strength or weakness when it comes to its efficiency in operations. There are many support groups that aid terrorists in their daily activities. They bring supplies and other stuff that groups need to ensure smooth operations. The target of different terrorist groups changes with time. In the past, it was assumed that terrorist had an agenda of liberating their countries or ethnic group. However, it is now clear that terrorist groups are interested in destructive actions. The organization of terrorist unities can either be hierarchical or networked depending on their country of origin and the age of organization. The hierarchical system applies to terrorist groups that have a political agenda. This is because political agendas require organized plans that need a lot of coordination. The networked system, on the other hand, is more independent kind of operations where individuals do not have a direct link with the heads of organizations. Some groups may operate independently from the main group and even train their members differently. There are groups that tend to apply both systems of organization. Therefore, leaders are hierarchal while other members are independent (Alexander, Swetnam & Levine, 2001).
The organizational commitment of members determines the levels of its supporters’ commitment. This divides supporters into four groups namely passive supporters, active supporters, cadre, and those who are in the leadership positions.
The organization of four groups forms a pyramid that consists of leaders on the tip of the pyramid and passive supporters on the base of the pyramid as they are the largest in number.
Leaders who have utmost power in terrorist groups develop policies and give direction on what organization needs to do. Leaders stay in an organization or decide to create their own organization depending on the relationship they have with other leaders. The operational cadres, on the other hand, form the active members of a group with their duties ranging from the planning and intelligence duties to financing and communication. They are the backbone of a terrorist group and make sure a group is up and running. The cadres are often the ones commanding other members. They are in touch with the low-level members (Alexander, Swetnam & Levine, 2001).
The active supporters have their own duties. They are similar with the cadres as they play an active role in raising finances for group, play different roles in the group politics, and gather intelligence information from different sources. The active supporters act as either visible or tacit members of a group and do surveillance tasks. Their main duties, however, are to provide safe houses where they can hide and bring in captives for interrogation. Most of the active supporters do not take part in the actual terrorism, but they only act as right hand people to provide information and finances to a group. The actual terror activities are left for the cadres. However, active supporters are aware of their relationship with a terrorist group and its activities (Berry, Curtis, Hudson & Kollars, 2002).
The passive supporters are those people who are against some aspects in government or a certain group but do not take any action to counter their beliefs. These groups of people do not normally know that they are supporting terror groups. All they know is that they sympathize with them. They end up funding a group without their knowledge. Terror groups often use the passive supporters to organize political activities and provide intelligence information to a group. They are mostly people of different positions in government who are used to hide terror groups’ existence and get information and funding. These people come from the sympathetic groups. Therefore, terrorists take advantage of them and force them to join a group.
There are different structures used by terror groups, and the smallest group is the cellular foundation. It consists of about three to ten members who operate in the tactical level of a terror group. The cells help to ensure that a group is secure in case one cell is busted. There is minimal connection between different cells. Therefore, this ensures that a group is secure because members of a cell are never aware of the existence of other cells in any organization. The cells are majorly dependent on the employment of members or family relations. The other things terrorists consider before forming a cell is the geographical location depending on the actions and intelligence required by the organization.
A hierarchical structure of a terror organization consists of a vertical chain of tasks, command, and power over members (Harris, 2004). The flow of information in such an organizational structure is organized in an upward and downward manner. This structure has defined feature and specialized duties as compared to a cell foundation. The organization has well defined objectives from political, social, and economic aspects. This type of structure suits groups with non-violent motives.
The networked structure is another organizational structure adapted by the terror groups. It does not provide well-defined authority. This is because such groups do not have well defined agendas and objectives, and they follow instructions given from the national levels. The members of cell groups use different means and methods to achieve the goals set by the national authority. The cells come up with their own initiatives on how they plan to achieve goals as long as they use the guidelines provided by the national team. The networked system makes sure that cells have minimal contact with each other except when they have to coordinate activities for a common target. This will help a terror group to deny any involvement in terror actions, if a member of the cells is captured (Ward & Hill, 2002).
The networked structure has three types of cells that they use. The chain networks structure uses nodes to pass the information that is common in drug and good smugglers. The hub and star structure have a central cell that acts as a decision maker and passes information to other nodes. The last structure is all channels by means of which nodes interconnect with each other.
The terror groups may have support from government in terms of funding. Other groups may operate under directions given by a state. The final group is one that operates independently of any state. The support groups play different roles. One of the duties of the support groups is financing. The funds may come from different sources, and this depends on the time a group lasts in the terror activities. The political sponsorship determines the structure of a group as it may control its activities. Popularity also determines the number of active and passive supporters in a group.