Some attacks have been spontaneous. When Abdulhakim Muhammad realised he was unable to attack his preferred targets, on June 1, 2009, he used a rifle to
shoot two U.S. soldiers who happened to be smoking outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas. One subsequently died.
The other plots required a greater level of planning. This was certainly the case when, in 2003, Sergeant Hasan Akbar used rifles and grenades to kill two
soldiers at a U.S. Army camp in Kuwait.
Notoriously, Major Nidal Hasan then killed 13 at the Fort Hood air base in Texas in November 2009. Hasan had contacted -- and taken direct ideological
inspiration -- from al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Using this attack as a template, in July 2011, U.S. Army Private Naser Abdo was arrested near Fort
Hood for a planned shooting and bombing campaign.
Therefore, the attacks that have led to the most casualties within the U.S. military are carried out by members of the armed services themselves.
When attacks are not carried out by U.S. soldiers, they are instead planned by radicalized cells looking to attack military bases. Cells in both New Jersey
and North Carolina attempted to launch such terrorist attacks. Yet the larger the cell, the more they were prone to infiltration; and government informants
and undercover officers have consistently thwarted plots involving larger networks.
However, even operating with great secrecy is no guarantee of success. Parviz Khan had attempted to keep his 2007 plot to kidnap and behead a British
Muslim soldier secret even from members of his own terrorist network. Yet the plan -- which had apparently received approval from al-Qaeda -- was still
rolled up by the British police. Khan and an accomplice, Basiru Gassama, were subsequently jailed.
Others failed because of their amateurish approach. The very first Islamism-related offense prosecuted in U.K. courts was an ultimately failed petrol bomb
attack on a reservist base carried out by Amer Mirza in 1998. Mirza was a member of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun, a group that Michael Adebolajo (one of
the London assassins) was also connected to.
Most militants attack service members for what the institution represents, and it is rare that a particular soldier will be targeted. There is only one
case of this: In 2005, when Abu Bakr Mansha plotted against Cpl Mark Byles, a British war hero who served in Iraq. Mansha had acquired a firearm, Byles'
former address, a range of jihadist material, and a newspaper article outlining the soldier's achievements.
The Byles case helps explain why soldiers are so often targeted. It is a response to the frustration radicalized Westerners feel at being either unable or
unwilling to travel to countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan to fight jihad. Among all those who had targeted soldiers in the West, barely any had actual
experience of actually fighting jihad in foreign lands. This lack of jihadist credentials abroad is significant in persuading them to try and fight
soldiers at home.