Author Biography

Senior Master Sergeant Gregory A. Smith is the command aerial gunner functional manager, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida. He leads, manages, and directs 254 aerial gunners in eight operational flying squadrons across two Special Operations Wings. He also serves as the senior evaluator aerial gunner for AC -130H/U standardization and evaluation section where he validates the combat readiness and proficiency of the Command’s aerial gunners. He has held positions as an operations superintendent, operations flight chief, aerial gunner functional manager, and superintendent of plans, intel, and tactics with the 4th Special Operations Squadron; a special missions planner with the 16th Operations Support Squadron; and superintendent of the 16th Special Operations Wing Strategic Plans office. Sergeant Smith was the first planner from the 16th Special Operations Wing to deploy in response to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He single-handedly established the first Air Operations Center and then deployed deeper behind enemy lines to build the first Combat Search and Rescue Base and Joint Interagency Operations Center used in Operation Enduring Freedom.



Subject Area Keywords

Africa, Al-Qaida, Ethnic conflict, History, Irregular warfare, Terrorism / counterterrorism


This paper is organized into four chapters that focus on the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The four chapters examine different facets of the collective environment that have allowed AQIM to succeed and even thrive at times. The first chapter begins with Algeria’s war of independence with the French. The second chapter focuses on the nomadic Tuareg people. It seeks to show how the Tuaregs were deprived by French occupiers and how European colonization cost the Tuaregs access to vital trade routes used for centuries. The third chapter will very briefly examine Algeria’s civil war and the emergence of modern terrorist groups. The fourth chapter will discuss the post-9/11 world in terms of “shaping operations” for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT ) and how this caused an evolution in terrorism as a reaction to actual or perceived American hegemonic ambitions.This paper is not a compendium of every event or in any way a complete history of the region. It is intended to reinforce the author’s notion of outlying antecedents that normally coalesce around a central issue and how the addition of a political agenda can lead these antecedents toward a fusion point. When the fusion point is met, ethno-nationalist ambitions are catapulted down the road of terrorism and the fundamental message is lost in the debris of another attack. Such is the story of AQIM…