"The purpose of the project is to identify patterns in the evolution of terrorist organizations, specify their causes and consequences, and analyze the development of Al Qaeda and its cohort in a comprehensive comparative framework. The project analyzes the organizational structure of families of terrorist organizations and traces their relationships over time. As a basis for building theoretical explanations, the project will produce a database of terrorist organizations and a series of dynamic maps of the architecture of violent and non-violent opposition groups existing in the same social movement sector or conflict system. The project will then identify common patterns of organizational evolution, as groups form, split, merge, collaborate, compete, shift ideological direction, adopt or renounce terrorism, grow, shrink, and eventually decline over time. Models based on comparisons of historical terrorist genealogies will be applied to the case of Al Qaeda and its Islamist or jihadist affiliates and associates, including the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Theories generated from the study will thus shed light on an important national security threat. The project will also identify or develop computer software to assemble, organize, and display information about organizations and their interactions over time. The historical scope of the project is comprehensive, covering modern political terrorism from its origins in the late nineteenth century to the present. The project will select cases where multiple oppositional groups, both terrorist and non-terrorist, interacted with other and the government over an extended period of time. The groups are seen as actors in conflict systems that can range from simple to complex."
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies: http://fsi.stanford.edu/docs/about_fsi