Using activity focus networks to pressure terrorist organizations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The predominant idea for using network concepts to fight terrorists centers on disabling key parts of their communication networks. Although this counternetwork strategy is clearly a sound approach, it is vulnerable to missing, incomplete, or erroneous information about the network. This paper describes a different and complementary application of network concepts to terrorist organizations. It is based on activity focus networks (AFNs), which represent the complex activity system of an organization. An activity focus is a conceptual or physical entity around which joint activity is organized. Any organization has a number of these, which are in some cases compatible and in some cases incompatible. The set of foci and their relations of compatibility and incompatibility define the AFN. A hypothetical AFN for a terrorist organization is specified and tested in a simulation called AQAS. It shows that certain activity foci, and in particular one combination, have high potential as pressure points for the activity system. The AFN approach complements the counternetwork approach by reducing the downside risk of incomplete information about the communication network, and enhancing the effectiveness of counternetwork approaches over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalComputational and Mathematical Organization Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006


  • Activity
  • Communication
  • Counterterrorism
  • Network
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • General Computer Science
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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