Predicting Artificial Intelligence's Effect on Non-State Armed Groups' Organizational Structures and Attack Repertoires

  • Saleh Alyammahi

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This research delves into the potential effects of artificial intelligence on organizational structure and attack repertoires of non-stated armed groups (NSAGs). The problem under consideration is highly significant given the rising security threat posed by NSAGs on the local, regional and global levels, and especially because technology has become an increasingly important facilitator in their operations. For example, NSAGs have in recent years utilized IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device), remote detonation, and GPS locators, not to mention the evolving ways by which they have exploited the cyber domain. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to produce wide-ranging implications for the operational effectiveness of NSAGs, especially those processes that are associated with how such groups organize and carry out attacks. Accordingly, the purpose of this research study is to better understand and anticipate the possible ways by which NSAGs may enhance their efficiency and effectiveness through utilizing AI. In this way, this research aims at predicting the role of artificial intelligence in the performance and effectiveness of non-state armed groups through the intervening role of their capacity to adopt new technologies as well as evaluating whether there is an evidential 'use case' for adopting new technology in the first place. In doing so, this study makes a major contribution to the growing literature on the role of emerging technologies on the ever-changing security environment. In order to drive this research forward, the following concise research question was devised: 'What will be the likely effects of artificial intelligence on non-state armed groups' organizational structures and attack repertoires?' The predictive nature of the research question makes it highly relevant for policy. In order to answer this research question, this study will test the plausibility of three main hypotheses. Developed from a close reading of the literature, these hypotheses are as follows: (H1) AI will affect some non-state armed groups' organizational structures because some of these groups will (a) have an overall reduced need for manpower, and (b) will seek to recruit members with much higher skill levels. (H2) AI will likely change the effectiveness of attacks by some non-stated armed groups by (a) expanding the scope of their attack repertoires, (b) and increasing the lethality and precision of existing attack methods. (H3) The impact of artificial intelligence on the organizational effectiveness and attack repertoires of NSAGs is also dependent on each group's capacity to adopt technological innovations. To preview the study's main conclusions, the thesis shows that there will likely be a positive association between AI adoption and the efficiency of organizational structure, in terms of reduced manpower and the requirement of recruiting more skilled individuals. In addition, it also predicts a probable relationship between AI adoption by NSAGs and greater efficiency in their attack repertoires. Contrary to this study's third hypothesis, the impact of AI on the organizational effectiveness and attack repertoires of NSAGs is not dependent on each group's capacity to adopt technological innovations such as AI. This means the findings of the discussion reflect validation of the first two hypothesis of the study whereas the third hypothesis of the study was found largely to be invalid.
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageAmerican English


  • Artificial Intelligence; Non-State Armed Groups; Technology Adoption; Terrorism; Organizational Effectiveness

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