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The Australian National University

Putting faces and context to the war on terror

Rory Medcalf

Dr Haroro Ingram is no ordinary terrorism specialist. With a varied background in national security roles, and having done extensive overseas fieldwork with former activists and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and Syria, he brings a special depth of understanding to his teaching and research.

Dr Ingram convenes the ‘Sectarianism and Religiously Motivated Violence’ course at the National Security College in first semester 2017.


“During the course we will naturally examine Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the other headline groups, looking closely at their politico-military and propaganda strategies,” Dr Ingram says. “But more importantly, we will be putting them into their broader historical and conceptual contexts.”

Dr Ingram says that context is of utmost importance to understanding the rapidly evolving face of modern terror and part of that exploration must involve “deep dives” into different case studies. “We need to look at the mix of social, psychological and broader strategic factors that are shared across different types of violent non-state political actors,” he adds. “But it is just as important to explore what’s unique about different examples to draw out lessons from that too.”

Dr Ingram has interviewed current and former members of fundamentalist groups, counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operatives, and some of the leading thinkers in the ‘war on terror’.

“None of what is happening has occurred in a vacuum,” he adds. “Many of the sectarian, religious and ethno-tribal divides we see around the world today have been around for centuries or more. They are being leveraged and brought to the fore by skilled strategists and propagandists working in these groups, especially by harnessing modern communication technologies. Sadly, these dynamics have too often been inadvertently helped along by misguided counterstrategies – more often than not because we haven’t quite grasped the dynamics at play.”



The National Security College is a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Government
and The Australian National University.

Updated:  16 February 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of College, National Security College/ Page Contact:  Web administrator, National Security College