Leadership decapitation, which refers to the arrest or killing of a group’s leadership, has become a key tool in current counterterrorism strategies This chapter presents an overview of the debate about leadership decapitation against terrorist organizations. Much of the optimism regarding the efficacy of decapitation as a counterterrorism strategy stems from the belief that terrorist groups depend upon the charisma of leaders for their cohesion. In order to understand whether decapitation works, this chapter presents three questions that will be answered in the book: (1) Under what conditions does leadership decapitation result in the decline of a terrorist organization? (2) Does leadership decapitation lengthen or shorten a group’s life span? (3) In cases where decapitation does not result in a group’s collapse, to what extent does it weaken a group and hinder its capacity to carry out attacks?
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