With last week's release of a video of Abu Bakr Baghdadi, ISIS showed that it's still got some life left—literally. The most important message to take away from the Baghdadi video may be that the Islamic State does not need territory to survive and even thrive.
May 6, 2019 Los Angeles Times
For the first time in five years, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the reclusive leader of ISIS, appeared on video. Why did he suddenly feel the need to show his face and speak to his followers? The answer concerns how recent events intersect with ISIS's long-term needs.
Apr 30, 2019 Foreign Policy
The U.S. designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization was meant to serve America's interests by isolating Iran. Instead, it may increase the likelihood of a tit-for-tat escalation that will require significant resources to avoid a broader regional conflagration.
Apr 11, 2019 Foreign Policy
With the Islamic State losing the last of its territory, the global jihadist movement is now entering a new phase. The question on the minds of many is whether al Qaeda will be able to capitalize upon the moment and reclaim the dominant position as the most capable Sunni jihadist terrorist organization.
Mar 14, 2019 Foreign Policy Research Institute
China's Belt and Road Initiative focuses on developing infrastructure to connect Beijing to key hubs of economic activity throughout the world. But the more interests one has abroad, the more one has to protect.
Feb 18, 2019 The National Interest
The U.S. withdrawal from Syria could allow Beijing to further assert its role as a key international partner in Syria and, by extension, further its interests in the Middle East. The extent of Sino-Syrian cooperation remains ambiguous but it has reportedly deepened, with China supplying intelligence personnel, strategic advisors, and special forces.
Feb 15, 2019 Lawfare
Whatever the benefits of replacing the current Venezuelan regime with Washington's preferred alternative, Juan Guaidó, there's reason to doubt that it would change the country's problematic relationship with Hezbollah. Hezbollah is well-entrenched in Venezuela, where it has established a vast infrastructure for its criminal activities.
Feb 11, 2019 Foreign Policy
The need for the military to make greater investments in technology is difficult if not impossible to separate from the risks posed by an increasing military reliance on this technology. Striking a balance between the two won't be easy.
Feb 4, 2019 The National Interest
President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria reverses his administration's recent policy of retaining them as long as Iranian troops stay. U.S. withdrawal would give Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia freer rein to subdue opposition forces. And Assad could feel emboldened to act with greater impunity and brutality.
Jan 10, 2019 The National Interest
President Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria may be unintentionally signaling that the United States is unwilling to compete in critical geopolitical hotspots. Such a message could embolden powerful states—including Iran—to expand their presence.
Jan 8, 2019 Foreign Affairs
Relying on Turkey to shoulder the burden of countering the Islamic State will provide the terrorist group with an opportunity to revive itself at a critical stage in the fight. Turkey's main focus is on the Kurds and Erdogan's opposition. Eradicating the Islamic State is a secondary priority that has often been ignored.
Jan 2, 2019 Foreign Policy
The future of the global jihadist movement is likely to resemble its past, with groups of militants dispersing to new battlefields, from North Africa to Southeast Asia. In this fragmented and atomised form, IS could become even more dangerous and challenging for counterterrorism forces, as its splinter groups threaten renewed and heightened violence throughout the globe.
Dec 11, 2018 International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT)
The shifting alignments in the Middle East have intensified since the murder of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul. Turkey has drifted away from NATO and toward Iran and Russia. Like Tehran and Moscow, Ankara is now more anti-Western than at any point in recent memory. What does this mean for the United States?
Oct 31, 2018 Foreign Affairs
The Trump administration's position on the Syrian civil war has shifted from countering ISIS to containing Iran. America will remain in Syria as long as Iran does. But an unending timetable for the withdrawal of troops is far more problematic for Washington than it is for Tehran.
Oct 16, 2018 The Atlantic
Although the Islamic State has lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it once controlled, it is ripe for a comeback in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq and Syria. The group has proven that it is capable of making money even without controlling large population centers.
Oct 10, 2018 Foreign Policy
With ISIS's caliphate in ruins, one of its affiliates could grow to become even deadlier and more capable than the core organization was during its peak. And with franchise groups and affiliates across the globe, there's no shortage of contenders to supplant ISIS as the world's most dangerous terrorist group.
Oct 9, 2018 The National Interest
The attempt to assassinate Venezuelan President Maduro showed that drones are easy to use and difficult to defend against. Commercial off-the-shelf technology is easy to acquire. It is imperative that counterterrorism specialists begin planning a robust response to the threat.
Aug 13, 2018 Foreign Policy Research Institute
At the July 16 summit in Helsinki, President Trump might stress that the West will persist in imposing costs on Russia for current and any future malign interventions. At the same time, he could offer to work with Putin in the search for peace in Syria and Ukraine if Moscow were to decide to withdraw its forces.
Jul 11, 2018 The Hill
Lone wolves or small groups could use drones, virtual currencies, encrypted communications, and artificial intelligence for nefarious purposes. The threat is even greater when these technologies are used in conjunction with disinformation spread over social media.
Jun 18, 2018 The National Interest
Attacks using vehicles like the one in Toronto this week are difficult to defend against, but that doesn't mean that law enforcement and local security forces can't make progress. There are four crucial elements to consider when thinking about mitigating the effects of ramming attacks.
Apr 26, 2018 The Globe and Mail
It is crucial that the United States and its coalition partners take into consideration and preempt the ISIS nostalgia narratives that may seek to define the group's legacy and prepare a foundation for its resurgence throughout the Middle East and beyond. The legacy ISIS should be remembered for is one of misery and despair.
Apr 19, 2018 Foreign Policy Research Institute
Turkey wants to take credit for the demise of the Islamic State, insisting that Turkey's actions in northern Syria have helped lay the groundwork for a sustainable peace. But the evidence clearly suggests otherwise.
Apr 13, 2018 Foreign Policy
Turkish President Erdoğan is attempting to cement his political legitimacy among Syrian Sunnis by portraying himself as their savior. If the United States withdraws from Syria after the mission to defeat ISIS is complete, it will essentially be ceding the advantage to Erdoğan, who can continue pushing his agenda.
Apr 2, 2018 The National Interest
Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.
Feb 19, 2018 The Jerusalem Post
Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.
Feb 19, 2018 The National Interest
Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore a dangerous and myopic policy.
Feb 16, 2018 Foreign Policy
Russia is America's adversary and its actions, particularly attempts to fracture NATO, do not align with larger U.S. security goals. Even where there are areas in which the two countries could work together to mutual benefit, any cooperation should be judicious, measured and treated with the requisite degree of skepticism.
Feb 9, 2018 Russia Matters
Iran is extending its influence throughout Syria as the Islamic State's influence declines. To counter Iranian efforts and the inevitable similar actions of other countries, the United States should dedicate significant resources to crafting its own strategy to prevent Tehran from taking advantage of the current conflict and humanitarian crisis.
Jan 25, 2018 Lawfare
Iran has spent billions of dollars in its quest to be a regional leader, but its main achievement has been to spark instability across a wide swath of the Middle East. Ordinary Iranians are struggling and protesters are urging a retreat from costly foreign fights and more aid at home.
Jan 12, 2018 The National Interest
The Assad regime's defense against insurgents in Syria's ongoing civil war is being provided by forces imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Lebanon and Iraq. Most of these fighters are being trained and equipped by Iran. Could this network of foreign fighters help Iran establish a greater presence beyond the Middle East?
Jan 4, 2018 The National Interest
Russia alone can neither guarantee the future security of Syria nor mobilize the resources to enable it to recover and rebuild. Only by linking arms with the international community to edge out Iran, forge broader-based governance and spur economic growth can Russia hope to achieve lasting success in Syria.
Dec 20, 2017 The Cipher Brief
To combat the threat posed by returning fighters, EU intelligence and police agencies will need to coordinate to find potential terrorists before they are able to conduct attacks in Europe. The return of dangerous foreign fighters to European soil should be motivation enough for an overarching review of each country’s vulnerabilities.
Nov 28, 2017 Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
The Philippines is a long way from the Islamic State's birthplace in the Middle East. But the jihadis have already seized and held a city there for three months. Even if the Philippines doesn't become a major node in the Islamic State's network, it will likely remain fertile ground for supporting the group and its violent agenda.
Nov 28, 2017 Foreign Policy
It is time for the U.S.-led coalition to figure out what its next counterterrorism steps should be, even as it continues to work toward stabilizing the country and navigating the path toward a political settlement with the other major powers involved.
Nov 15, 2017 Sada
By continually staking claim to big and small terrorist attacks, regardless of target selection or casualty count, ISIS has attempted to instill a sense of omnipresent and unpredictable danger. And in the process, terrorism fatigue may be setting in around the world.
Nov 1, 2017 Slate
The recent vehicle attack in Manhattan was the deadliest terror attack on New York since 9/11. Preventing every attack is unrealistic, but with increased vigilance, cooperation with law enforcement, and intelligence sharing, citizens can help mitigate the threat of terrorism.
Nov 1, 2017 The Globe and Mail
Al Qaeda in Syria cut ties with its parent organization to portray itself as a legitimate, capable, and independent force in the Syrian civil war. The group appears dedicated to helping Syrians prevail, and now that ISIS has lost its capital in Raqqa, al Qaeda may be the only group viewed as militarily capable of challenging the Assad regime.
Oct 24, 2017 Foreign Affairs
Hezbollah has gained valuable combat experience in Syria, but the cost of that experience may not outweigh the losses in troops, the damage to its image and the need to cede some of its autonomy to Iran and the Assad regime. The longer the war drags on, the more apparent these losses will become.
Oct 17, 2017 The Jerusalem Post
The rise of hardline Salafism is a worrisome trend in Gaza, where Salafists could surpass Hamas as the most dangerous threat to other Palestinians and the state of Israel. Such a result could signal the sabotage of yet another chance for progress in one of the world's longest-running conflicts.
Oct 11, 2017 Foreign Affairs
About 300 of Western China's Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority, went to Syria to join ISIS. Now that the caliphate is collapsing, Beijing could soon find itself in the crosshairs of a religiously motivated, battle-hardened crop of returning terrorists.
Sep 29, 2017 Defense One
As the Islamic State's territory shrinks and its prestige declines, militants will try to find their way home. Many foreign fighters began as criminals, and many might turn to crime on their return. One of the most productive ways to identify and disrupt returning fighters is to focus on the criminal underworld.
Sep 25, 2017 Lawfare
The campaign to counter ISIS has made significant progress, but predictions of the group's demise are premature. It is transitioning from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the globe.
Sep 25, 2017 Foreign Affairs
Hezbollah's information warfare portfolio includes newspapers, social media outlets, television programming, and a major internet presence. Its websites reflect the group's diverse agenda and aim to be multi-generational in their approach, offering information about social services as well as a video game to engage youth.
Sep 19, 2017 The Jerusalem Post
Hezbollah has been active inside the United States for decades, engaging in a range of activities that include fundraising and money laundering. The U.S. and its allies should continue to combat the financing of terrorism and take action against the funding of terrorist groups on U.S. soil.
Aug 28, 2017 The National Interest
Soft targets are notoriously difficult to protect from terrorism. Terrorists' latest shift to using vehicles to conduct attacks only compounds the problem.
Aug 18, 2017 The Globe and Mail
The Islamic State's caliphate is collapsing but its legacy will live on virtually because of its information operations. The scale of the menace presented by the group today pales in comparison to other global challenges, yet it manages to dominate and terrorize the public mind.
Aug 17, 2017 War on the Rocks
As the Islamic State loses territory, it is forced to seek new revenue streams to exploit, including drug trafficking. Proceeds garnered from peddling narcotics affords jihadis in Europe the financial flexibility to travel to Syria, to fund attacks, and to pay for their return trips home.
Jul 25, 2017 Fortune
The U.S. government must choose where to apply limited resources to defend soft targets. But it could expand its information-sharing efforts with other governments and local law enforcement. Broad intelligence sharing and more training could help identify potential attackers before they can execute their plans.
Jul 5, 2017 The National Interest
If and when self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed, it will have little effect on the threat posed by the Islamic State to global security. The far more important objective is to continue dismantling the organization as a whole, including its affiliates in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.
Jun 30, 2017 Foreign Policy
The Russian military announced that it might have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an airstrike in Raqqa. Would his death weaken the group or will ISIS continue to adapt, evolve, and expand like al Qaeda did?
Jun 22, 2017 Foreign Affairs
The terrorist attack that began when a van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge is a reminder that vehicular terrorism has become mainstream. How can authorities safeguard against such low-tech attacks?
Jun 5, 2017 The Atlantic
As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suffers defeats on the battlefield, it is expanding its cyber presence to continue to encourage attacks abroad. The more the group relies on cyberspace, the more likely it will expose important segments of its organization to detection and disruption.
May 30, 2017 The National Interest
ISIS is being defeated as an insurgency while preparing to transform into a clandestine terrorist group. But ISIS will continue to pose a serious threat to the countries where it operates and to the Western nations that it targets as it evolves.
May 18, 2017 The Cipher Brief
Hamas has unveiled a revised version of its charter that appears to soften the group's stance toward Israel. Does this represent a shift away from violence and toward a more lasting and peaceful political presence? Or is it a ploy to buy time to rearm?
May 17, 2017 Foreign Affairs
Significant gains have been made in attacking the Islamic State's cash and diminishing its ability to finance high-frequency attacks in Iraq and Syria. But the group may retain enough money to support sporadic attacks in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
May 15, 2017 Lawfare
ISIL's caliphate is crumbling. But unless the U.S.-led coalition can reduce the many possibilities that might give ISIL's down-and-out members a reason to fight on, the militants will continue to contribute to disorder in the region.
May 3, 2017 War on the Rocks
Moscow has achieved tactical successes in Syria, but without Western and regional help, its long-term strategic interests could be at risk. Denying strong evidence that the regime of Bashar al-Assad attacked civilians with sarin gas makes it harder for Moscow to obtain the Western and regional help it needs to secure its interests there.
Apr 24, 2017 Newsweek
For the United States, countering terrorism saw both progress and setbacks in 2016. The U.S. will need to keep pace with terrorist abilities to adapt to its countermeasures while maintaining a high operational tempo punctuated by aggressive counterterrorism strikes.
Apr 13, 2017 The Strategist
The U.S. is struggling to find an effective way to counter violent extremism at home and counteract the presence of terrorist groups on social media. Policymakers are tasked with managing a military defeat of IS in the Middle East while lowering the risk of blowback in the U.S. at the same time.
Apr 13, 2017 The Strategist
As Russia gets more involved with the Syrian civil war, it's likely that Sunni militants will intensify their campaign against Russia. But the key reason why Sunni attacks on Russia proper will increase is the fallout between Sunni jihadists in the Caucasus — namely, the al-Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate and the ISIS-linked Wilayat Qawqaz.
Apr 4, 2017 The Atlantic
Russia is fast replacing the United States as the number-one enemy of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni jihadist groups motivated by violent and puritanical Salafist ideology. This shift is rooted in recent Russian actions in the Middle East.
Apr 3, 2017 Politico
Al Qaeda in Syria, by any name, remains a dangerous and capable terrorist organization with the ability to conduct attacks in the West. Those seeking to grapple with the threat the group poses should focus less on its names and more on its actions.
Mar 23, 2017 The Cipher Brief
Today's terrorist networks will multiply far beyond the wars in Iraq and Syria. When one conflict ends, these fighters often join another. It is critical they be denied safe haven and the ability to train and network in ungoverned territories.
Mar 14, 2017 The National Interest
When a conflict ends, transnational terrorists are likely to disperse in many directions and switch their allegiances among terrorist groups. For the West, countering these different groups will require a range of strategies.
Mar 6, 2017 The Atlantic
ISIS is a worthy candidate for eradication, but failing to also target its franchises, al-Qaida splinters, and other non-aligned groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia could allow other threats to metastasize.
Feb 9, 2017 Defense One
The coalition tasked with countering ISIS has made progress, and ISIS is sure to break apart further over the next few years. Any splinter groups that result could differ from their parent organization, so counterterrorism strategies will need to adjust.
Jan 31, 2017 Foreign Affairs
Most parties have been on the losing side of the war in Syria. Meanwhile, Lebanese terrorist militia Hezbollah has cemented its status as a regional power player. The group has gained fighting experience and benefited from a growing alliance with the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia.
Jan 30, 2017 The National Interest
The United States should continue to pursue international cooperation in cyberspace, improve its ability to identify and expose the sources of attacks, and improve its oversight of the development and adoption of cyber-related technologies.
Dec 22, 2016 Defense One
The idea of a crime-terror nexus does appear to be a major threat in Europe, where terrorists and criminals now recruit from the same milieu. Coperation between European law enforcement and intelligence agencies is critical.
Dec 15, 2016 International Centre for Counter-Terrorism
Russia is a declining economic power whose foreign policy has led to isolation and criticism. But Putin may have an inflated sense of Russia's importance and expect one-sided U.S. concessions. If so, diplomacy could run into headwinds early in the Trump administration.
Nov 21, 2016 Newsweek
As ISIL experiences ongoing battlefield losses it will have to rework its strategy to sustain itself as a preeminent jihadist brand. Meanwhile, the group will likely place greater emphasis on smaller scale strikes that require less central direction.
Nov 10, 2016 War on the Rocks
While the West targets ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra, is quietly laying the groundwork for al Qaeda's resurgence.
Nov 2, 2016 The Cipher Brief
Al Qaeda presents a graver long-term threat to the West than the Islamic State. It has proved more effective in exploiting U.S. policy in the Middle East to legitimize itself as an armed force and, increasingly, as a viable political player.
Oct 27, 2016 Reuters
Washington must act soon to raise the costs of Syrian and Russian killing in Aleppo. Otherwise, the quarter-million people who live there could be in danger, and the Kremlin might think that it can mount further challenges to the West.
Oct 6, 2016 USA Today
New York City native Colin Clarke discusses how terrorism has evolved since the September 11 attacks and how the tragedy motivated him to become a terrorism expert.
Sep 11, 2016 Fox News Channel
Whether or not Jabhat Fateh al-Sham's new name means a genuine break from its parent organization al Qaeda, the mere rebranding could prolong Syria's civil war. The worst-case scenario is that the group could embed itself within the rebel opposition in Syria the way Hezbollah did in Lebanon.
Aug 25, 2016 Reuters
To counter the threat posed by the Islamic State group, it is crucial to understand what the terrorist organization is and what it is not. Attributing all jihadist violence to a ruthless gang headquartered in Raqqa exaggerates the power of the group and plays into their propaganda and recruiting efforts.
Aug 23, 2016 U.S. News & World Report
Rather than thinking of defeating terrorists solely in traditional military terms, it might make sense to think of bankrupting them. It might help to consider the factors that cause luxury brands to lose their luster or big box retailers to fail.
Aug 16, 2016 The National Interest
Because the U.S. cannot afford to prioritize and defend against every possible threat, it must accept risk with each decision. And the more adaptive the adversary, the more likely it will confound readiness investments made previously to confront it.
Aug 10, 2016 Defense News
Would counterterrorism forces be better served by containing terrorist groups instead of attempting to destroy them? Dismantling and destroying the Islamic State and similar organizations is a worthy strategic goal, but policymakers must also be prepared to limit the effectiveness of splinter groups as they emerge in the aftermath.
Jul 12, 2016 The Washington Post Monkey Cage Blog
Focusing on one type of threat or the other — whether state or non-state in its general nature — is becoming a less tenable option as the United States considers how to assess and improve its military readiness.
Jul 12, 2016 Defense One
ISIL has been forced out of 56 places it once controlled, including five major cities. Taking its territory and diminishing its brand is required to reduce the group's operational capacity for carrying out or influencing local or distant attacks.
Jul 8, 2016 The National Interest
The Islamic State's loss of territory, money, and recruits would seem to demonstrate significant progress by the U.S.-led coalition. But if there is one accepted truism in the battle against the group, it is that its leaders intend to fight to the death to establish an Islamic caliphate.
May 23, 2016 Reuters
If they haven't already, the Islamic State's leaders will soon formulate a contingency strategy, a Plan B that the West will then be forced to contend with.
May 11, 2016 Foreign Policy
Megacities are urban areas that seep into one another and have more than 10 million inhabitants. To counter violent non-state actors operating in megacities in the future, the U.S. military will have to be able to piece together a comprehensive and actionable intelligence picture, and under enormously challenging circumstances.
Apr 6, 2016 Reuters, The Great Debate blog
To prevail against ISIS in cyberspace, the United States and its cyber soldiers will have to be capable of reacting quickly, while being guided by an overarching strategy. Secretary of Defense Carter urged U.S. Cyber Command to intensify the fight against ISIS but it would also be wise to recruit civilian volunteers.
Apr 1, 2016 Project Syndicate
Effective and enduring political settlements result from quid pro quos, not irrational pursuit of one-sided advantage. Recognizing that contending parties have legitimate interests in the complex Syria conflict could help bring an end to a destructive war in a volatile but vital region.
Mar 18, 2016 U.S. News & World Report
Moscow remains ambivalent but the West and its Arab partners could improve cease-fire prospects in Syria. They will have to drive the peace process to maintain pressure for political accommodation and also do more to help the rebels they back avert a military imbalance.
Feb 18, 2016 Newsweek
Millions of people leave behind online footprints each day, giving law enforcement and intelligence experts the chance to construct a profile of who is more likely to commit violence in the name of a murderous ideology.
Dec 28, 2015 Newsweek
Iranian sponsorship of terrorist organizations cannot be divorced from the negotiations because the sanctions that will be lifted provide new sources of funding to reinforce the Iran threat network. A global strategy to address the Iran threat network is essential to stability in the region.
Jul 15, 2015 FOX News Channel
Recent analysis about how to defeat the Islamic State tends to be based on no more than intuition, a general sense of history, or a small number of cases of questionable comparability. A study of 71 historical cases of counterinsurgencies should help provide empirical evidence to this important debate.
Sep 2, 2014 The Washington Post Monkey Cage Blog