Terrorism Articles

Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa's Deadliest Radicals

Hundreds of newly trained Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18Km south of Mogadishu on Thursday Feb. 17, 2011 (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh).
By Peter Dörrie
, , Feature

More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities.

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In Training Partner Militaries, U.S. Should Not Rush to ‘Do Something’ in Africa

By Michelle Sieff
, , Briefing

As African heads of state gather in Washington this week for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the continent’s overall security progress shouldn’t obscure its ongoing challenges, including violent Islamist extremism. With the shift in U.S. counterterrorism strategy from direct to indirect action—training partner or indigenous troops—U.S. policymakers and the military must confront critical strategic and practical issues. more

Special Report

A Year of Conflict and Crisis for Africa

By The Editors
, , Report

As President Barack Obama convenes a summit of nearly 50 African leaders in Washington focused mainly on economic opportunity, security and health crises continue to undermine the continent’s potential. South Sudan and the Central African Republic are torn by civil war; Nigeria and Kenya are threatened by terrorist groups; and Sierra Leone and Liberia are suffering from the worst Ebola outbreak to date. But while Western powers like the U.S. and France continue to wield influence, it is increasingly Africa’s leaders who are driving events. more

Global Insider

U.N. Resolution Unlikely to Lead to Better Aid Distribution in Syria

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

In mid-July, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to allow humanitarian aid delivery to Syrians in rebel-held areas without Syrian government consent, through four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. In an email interview, Dr. Hannah Vaughan-Lee, a humanitarian practitioner and academic, discussed the challenges ahead for the cross-border aid operation. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Lacking Security Strategy, EU Counts on Nearby Crises to Absorb Threats

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

The EU’s security may actually benefit from ongoing crises in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the efforts of potential foes, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly. EU members have no appetite to get involved in these wars, leading critics to grumble that it refuses to fight for its interests. But it may be in its interests to let others keep fighting. more

World Citizen

In Israel, Pragmatism Could Trump Ideology After the Fighting

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

The domestic political repercussions of a military conflict don’t become clear until the fighting stops. But political tremors don’t wait for a cease-fire. In Israel, the current confrontation with Hamas has fractured a major political alliance and caused one high-level personnel change. But so far there is no indication that Israel’s political landscape will be dramatically transformed by the conflict. more

Strategic Posture Review: Israel

By Shai Feldman
, , Report

Israel’s threat environment has changed dramatically in recent years, especially when compared to that which Israel faced when its defense doctrine was first articulated and its force structure was first conceived. This report will discuss these changes, identify the new challenges Israel faces, characterize the domestic environment affecting defense allocations and attempt to ascertain the implications of these factors for Israeli strategy. The conclusion will elaborate on the debate now taking place within the country’s defense community about the future doctrine and force structure of the Israel Defense Forces. more

Regional Security Role Shields Mauritania’s Aziz From Pressure to Reform

By Kal Ben Khalid
, , Briefing

Western governments welcomed the re-election of Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, last month. Yet they should not confuse Aziz, a vital counterterrorism partner, with the entire Mauritanian regime. His power has limits and depends on the backing of the military. Strengthening the military without monitoring delicate internal politics risks destabilizing an important regional security ally. more

Growing Threat of European Fighters in Syria Highlights Need for EU Cooperation

By Benoît Gomis
, , Briefing

Almost all European Union member states have seen some of their citizens, often Muslims between the ages of 18-29, leave their countries to join the jihad against the Assad regime in Syria. There has been a range of national responses to stem the flow of European jihadi fighters, including prevention, management, monitoring, prosecution and reintegration measures. But the EU still has an important role to play. more

Special Report

Syria's Spillover, Iraq's Nightmare

By The Editors
, , Report

The ongoing civil war in Syria has spread across the Iraqi border in recent months, putting Iraq back at the center of the region’s security agenda. As the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) take control over a large part of Iraq, the Kurdish population has become increasingly assertive in the pursuit of its own autonomy, and Iraq has once again become a policy challenge for Washington. This report examines the implications of the growing conflict for Iraq, the U.S., Syria and a potentially independent Kurdistan, drawing on articles published in the past year. more

As U.S. Winds Down Counterterrorism Task Force in the Philippines, Challenges Remain

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

After more than a decade in the Philippines, the United States is phasing out an elite counterterrorism task force sent there after the attacks of 9/11. But as one chapter of U.S.-Philippines security cooperation comes to a close, the relationship will remain a priority for the Obama administration as it tries to keep its rebalancing plan—the strategic “pivot” of military assets and attention to Asia—on track. more

Turkey Hostage Crisis Could Limit U.S. Options in Iraq

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The fall of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suddenly put Iraq back on the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Although stories of fleeing Iraqi troops got most of the attention in U.S. media, the hostage-taking of 49 Turkish citizens from the Turkish consulate in Mosul as well as 31 other Turks from elsewhere in northern Iraq, could limit U.S. options in responding to the growing chaos in Iraq. more

World Citizen

Obama Faces Daunting Choices on Iraq

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

When ISIS launched its blitzkrieg assault on Iraq, it suddenly put the entire country in play, threatening its very existence. The rapid territorial gains by the ultra-extremist Sunni militant group put enormous pressure on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But it is not only Maliki who faces difficult and urgent choices. The Iraqi crisis is also a pressing challenge for Barack Obama. more

Santos’ Re-election No Guarantee for Colombia Peace

By Eric Farnsworth
, , Briefing

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' re-election is being described as a referendum on his government’s peace negotiations with the FARC. With this in mind, some observers have begun to look ahead toward implementation of the peace accords. But that’s not necessarily the actual message of the election, in terms of either the peace talks or the rest of the Colombia’s domestic and international agenda. more

With Recent Attacks, the IMU Seeks to Raise Its Profile in Pakistan

By Kathy Gilsinan
, , Trend Lines

Two separate terrorist attacks rocked the international airport in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, last week, killing dozens. On Sunday, the Pakistani military launched a long-delayed ground assault into its tribal regions in an effort to root out the militants that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif now calls a threat to “the sovereignty of the motherland.”

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World Citizen

Syria Has Put Iraq Back on Obama’s Agenda

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

The news from Iraq was stunning: A group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria managed to take control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, adding to a growing expanse of territory now under its control. With its victory, ISIS sent a clear message that it has grown into a force that all domestic, regional and international players will have to consider in their strategic and tactical considerations. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Indecision Courts Disaster as Jihadist Insurgency Spreads

By Steven Metz
, , Column

The U.S. has yet to decide on a clear course of action when flawed governments face jihadist insurgency, instead vacillating between half-hearted counterinsurgency support and a forlorn hope that moderate democracy will emerge or the government will address the problems that inspired armed opposition. Washington seems resigned to simply ride out this storm and hope for the best. This courts disaster. more

With World Focused on Boko Haram, al-Shabaab Steps Up Offensive

By Kathy Gilsinan
, , Trend Lines

In late May, the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab staged two major attacks on the same Saturday, striking Mogadishu’s parliament building as well as pulling off the first-ever suicide attack in neighboring Djibouti. In one day, the group demonstrated not only its continuing ability to strike the heavily defended heart of the Somali capital, but also to reach new targets. more

Southeast Asia Struggles With Syrian Terror Nexus

By Sidney Jones
, , Briefing

With some Southeast Asian Muslims raising funds and recruiting fighters for Syria, concerns are growing that these activities will eventually raise the risk of terrorism in the region. The numbers are still low, but some governments—Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular—are beginning to wonder what the impact will be if some of their extremist nationals or neighbors come back with new skills. more

Strategic Horizons

Defending Against Syrian Jihadists a Slippery Challenge for the West

By Steven Metz
, , Column

For years, security experts have warned of the threat from “homegrown terrorists” inspired by al-Qaida’s violent ideology. Homegrown jihadists were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, the Madrid train bombings of 2004 and the London Underground bombings of 2005. It could get worse as dozens or even hundreds of trained, experienced, radicalized fighters return home from Syria and other conflicts. more

Full-Spectrum Diplomacy

Speech Plus Action Needed for Obama Doctrine to Succeed

By Heather Hurlburt
, , Column

The American public and punditocracy might have moved on from President Barack Obama’s West Point speech, but a question I was asked in commenting on the address has stuck in my mind: What would it take for Obama’s speech to be remembered like the Marshall Plan speech? Comparing Obama’s proposals to the Marshall Plan is likely to set eyes rolling. But on closer inspection, the question is quite insightful. more