Technological improvements are changing the power relationships between non-state and state actors. At War on the Rocks, TX Hammes made this argument with an eye toward Israel and Hamas. One of his key takeaways is that technological advances have afforded Hamas the opportunity to become a more capable and deadly military force and thereby blunt technological advantages Israel has traditionally enjoyed. This insight is not only relevant for Israel-Hamas interactions, but is indicative of a larger regional trend involving an array of militant groups currently in the news from Hezbollah to the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL). The implications for state actors seeking to roll back these groups are severe, and will require a new approach to irregular conflicts characterized by greater interaction between tactics, strategy, and technology.
Militant groups have displayed an increased capability across a range of warfighting functions such as fires, maneuver and communications. Augmented by new technologies, these developments indicate that militants are growing in their lethality and capacity to launch fires at state actors, as opposed to indiscriminate attacks. As General Robert Scales (ret) and WOTR’s Douglas Ollivant argued in The Washington Post a few weeks ago, “terrorist armies are fighting smarter and deadlier than ever.” For example, militants used to engage in sporadic hit-and-run attacks characterized by ineffective AK-47 fire or an RPG launch. Now they are skilled soldiers, demonstrating their ability to successfully utilize indirect fire support and maneuver effectively. A seasoned military official recently told ABC News that ISIL fighters are “incredible” and “use special operations TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures].”