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On SecuritySep 10, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
The 9/11 attacks against the United States were a watershed moment for the jihadist movement.
18 Years After 9/11, Jihadism Remains a Global and Local Threat
18 years ago tomorrow, Osama bin Laden and his jihadist al Qaeda group conducted the most devastating terrorist attacks in history. The attacks in New York and Washington took the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent victims, shaking the entire world to its core. And the aftershocks continue to be felt today -- whether it's in the residual consequences of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, or the complete overhaul of global air travel security.  Almost two decades later, the United States remains engaged in both Middle Eastern and Afghan theatres. Just this past weekend, the White House pulled the plug on the latest round of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. And on a local and individual level, the attacks continue to affect the health of survivors and first responders who witnessed the horror firsthand and were exposed to asbestos and other toxic building materials in the process.
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On SecurityMar 5, 2019 | 10:15 GMT
Iraqis demand investigations March 1, 2019, in Baghdad into the discovery of a mass grave near the Islamic State's last bastion in eastern Syria.
The Erasure of the Islamic State's Caliphate Won't Ensure Its Defeat
The U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces launched an operation March 1 backed by U.S. artillery and air support in an effort to defeat the remnant core fighters of the Islamic State in the last sliver of the militant group's self-declared "caliphate," the term it used to describe the territory in Syria and Iraq it conquered and governed under its austere interpretation of Sharia. With the destruction of the so-called caliphate imminent, many have begun to wonder if the jihadist group could ever recover. But this is the wrong question. Instead of asking whether the Islamic State core can recover, the proper question is whether the Islamic State core will be permitted to recover again. The difference between these two questions is subtle, but vitally important.
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On SecurityJan 22, 2019 | 11:00 GMT
A Somali soldier stands at the scene of a car bomb attack conducted by al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab near the Peace Hotel in Mogadishu on Jan. 2, 2017.
Tracking Jihadist Movements in 2019: Al Qaeda
The jihadist movement is a global insurgency – not just a terrorist phenomenon. Today, most of the world's jihadist groups have affiliated themselves with one of two poles: al Qaeda or the Islamic State. This seeming unity, however, belies numerous disagreements about how to pursue jihad. Given these differences, it is little surprise that there is a great deal of variance among different groups – even among those under the same al Qaeda or Islamic State umbrella. In this, some "franchises" stick close to the philosophies and guidance provided by the nominal parent organization, while others stray further afield. Here's a look at what how al Qaeda's various franchises fared in 2018 and what we can expect from them in the year to come.
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On SecuritySep 11, 2018 | 09:30 GMT
A group of Afghan mujahideen progress behind a wall in the village of Ghazni in southern Afghanistan as they fight Soviet-backed government forces in March 1989.
On the Anniversary of 9/11, We Reflect on the War Against Jihadism
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Some 3,000 perished in the attack, representing an unprecedented death toll in the history of terrorism – to the extent that the figure far exceeded even the wildest hopes of the al Qaeda planners behind the attack. The loss of life and the scale of the destruction woke the United States from its slumber on the jihadist threat, spurring it to finally respond to al Qaeda's provocations in a powerful manner. The country first invaded Afghanistan, which had given al Qaeda refuge, and later Iraq. 9/11, however, was not the first salvo in the jihadist war, but merely a turning point. Seventeen years on, the war drags on – and will continue to do so until jihadists are defeated not only on the physical battlefield, but also the ideological one.
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On SecurityJul 24, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Police officers present suspected ISWAP militants, as well as a cache of weapons, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, on July 18.
Defining Militant Groups: Why the Names Matter
On July 14, reports from Nigeria's Yobe state emerged regarding an attack on a military base. Media outlets around the world were quick to identify the main culprit, noting how "Boko Haram" – the name that has become synonymous with militancy in the country – had raided a base. Truth be told, while there was certainly an attack, it wasn't conducted by Boko Haram, but the al-Barnawi faction of Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi, or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The attack touched off a conversation between some colleagues and myself last week that centered on one curious question: Why do many media outlets continue to refer to the group as Boko Haram, even though it declared allegiance to the Islamic State and formally changed its name in March 2015?
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Contributor PerspectivesJun 20, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Syrians gather in Zardana (Idlib province) after airstrikes, believed to have been launched by Russia, killed about 40 civilians in early June.
Trump's Road to Damascus and a Chance for Conversion
President Donald Trump's administration inherited the Syria mess when it entered the White House on Jan. 20, 2017. Its policy was anyone's guess, reminding me of an old joke about an Irish farmer telling a tourist who asked for directions to Dublin, "Well, I wouldn't be going there from here." It is unclear how far Trump and his new foreign policy team, national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will commit the country's money, armed forces and intelligence services to Syria. They could, if they dared, learn from the mistakes of Obama's policies to avoid prolonging the war and deepening the United States' involvement in it.
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On SecurityDec 7, 2017 | 08:00 GMT
Iraqi fighters enter the city of Qaim on Nov. 3 near a wall bearing an image of the Islamic State flag.
The Defeat and Survival of the Islamic State
Several people have asked me lately whether I thought the Islamic State will become a "virtual caliphate" now that it has lost most of the terrain it once held, including the strategic cities of Mosul and Raqqa. At the same time, I've talked with people who claim that the Islamic State has been destroyed. Both viewpoints have some truth to them, but neither is the whole truth. Both miss where the Islamic State is really headed.
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Partner PerspectivesApr 19, 2017 | 15:36 GMT
Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik Radicals Behind Terrorism 'Made in Central Asia'
Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik Radicals Behind Terrorism 'Made in Central Asia'
In the attack on an Istanbul nightclub last winter and recent ones in Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Astrakhan most of the perpetrators appeared to be not Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis “as usual” but people from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as ethnic Uygurs from western China. This, in the eyes of the public, has turned Central Asia into a terrorist brand. It appears that the region is ill-prepared to cope with it.
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On SecurityMar 9, 2017 | 09:36 GMT
An image from an al Qaeda-inspired magazine shows Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in hell. Three years after the Islamic State defected from al Qaeda in an acrimonious and highly public split, many are still concerned that the two could someday reunite.
Can the Islamic State and al Qaeda Find Common Ground?
Three years after the Islamic State defected from al Qaeda in an acrimonious and highly public split, many are still concerned that the two could someday reunite. The warnings of figures like Georgetown University's Bruce Hoffman have been given new life over the past few months as the Islamic State continues to take heavy losses on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria. The idea of the global jihadist movement's two major poles joining forces is certainly a troubling one. The combined capabilities of the Islamic State and al Qaeda could pose a significant threat to the rest of the world, making them a much more dangerous enemy together than divided. But even with the Islamic State's recent setbacks, an alliance between it and al Qaeda would be far more difficult to accomplish than you might expect.
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AssessmentsJun 30, 2016 | 09:17 GMT
Assessing the Jihadist Threat in Egypt: Mainland Egypt
Assessing the Jihadist Threat in Egypt: Mainland Egypt
The activities of radical jihadist groups have died down in mainland Egypt in recent months, but that does not mean the country's security situation is settled. Low-level attacks against police officers and other targets, for example, still occur. But between government crackdowns and internal disagreements, Egyptian jihadist groups' power to conduct sophisticated, large-scale operations appears to have been suppressed.
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AssessmentsJun 29, 2016 | 09:15 GMT
Examining the Jihadist Threat in Egypt
Assessing the Jihadist Threat in Egypt: The Sinai Peninsula
The history of radical Islamism in Egypt is long and bloody. But in the past few years, the threat posed by Egyptian jihadists has reached new heights. Many of the country's jihadists, held captive under former President Hosni Mubarak, were freed during the revolution that led to his ouster in 2011. These militants went on to play a leading role in forming groups such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which by late 2013 had become the most active and deadly terrorist group in Egypt. Of course, any attempt to examine Egypt's militant threat must first acknowledge the vast difference between the threat environment on the Sinai Peninsula and that of mainland Egypt. The former is far more of an insurgency; Sinai militants employ hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, roadside bombings and indirect-fire attacks with rockets and mortars. By contrast, the militant threat on the mainland tends to more closely resemble urban terrorism.
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On SecurityMay 5, 2016 | 08:20 GMT
The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon fulfilled the ambition of Osama bin Laden -- who died five years ago -- to have the United States invade the Muslim world.
Death and Destruction: Bin Laden's True Legacy
May 2 marked the five-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. In the wake of that operation, we noted that while bin Laden's death fulfilled a sense of vengeance and closure for the 9/11 attacks, in the big picture, it was going to have little effect on the trajectory of the wider jihadist movement. A man was dead, but the ideology of jihadism was going to continue to pose a threat. The jihadist movement has progressed closer to bin Laden's vision for the world in the past five years than it had in the almost 10 years between 9/11 and his death. An arc of jihad now spreads from West Africa through the Middle East and into Southeast Asia. Reflecting on bin Laden's demise provides a reminder not to lose sight of the wider jihadist movement by focusing on individuals and groups.
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On SecurityMar 3, 2016 | 08:00 GMT
Though punishing airstrikes and offensives against the Islamic State have reduced the group's manpower, finances and areas of control in Iraq and Syria, the group is far from defeated. 
Is the Islamic State in Its Death Throes or Deadlier Than Ever?
Many journalists have questioned whether the Islamic State is really being damaged by coalition airstrikes. Some have even suggested that the group may be stronger than ever. These viewpoints -- in large part, a response to the group's Feb. 28 attack in Abu Ghraib -- stand in stark contrast to an article published by the Daily Beast last week, which quoted a Defense Department official who said the Islamic State was "entering its death throes." But neither of these takes on the Islamic State is correct.
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On SecurityNov 12, 2015 | 08:52 GMT
A bomb appears to have downed Metrojet Flight 9268 and many fear the Islamic State may have been behind it
Why the Attack on a Russian Airliner Changes Nothing
While the mystery of the Metrojet Flight 9268 crash has yet to be solved, a mounting pile of evidence points to the conclusion that it was taken down by a bomb. As the idea becomes more widely accepted, some are beginning to label the attack a "game changer;" others are starting to sow panic that the Islamic State may try to attack another airliner bearing tourists. But panic is the last thing the world needs right now, and it serves little purpose other than to contribute to terrible policy decisions. Instead, what we really need is a calm demeanor and a little perspective.
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