• Terrorism

    In a series of bloody campaigns from 2014 to 2019, a multinational military coalition drove the Islamic State group, often known as ISIS, out of much of the Iraqi and Syrian territory that the strict militant theocracy had brutally governed. But the Pentagon and the United Nations both estimate that the group still has as many as 30,000 active insurgents in the region. Thousands more IS-aligned fighters are spread across Africa and Asia, from the scrublands of Mali and Niger to the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, to the island jungles of the Philippines.

  • Extremism

    The director of Germany’s military intelligence service has confirmed that hundreds of new investigations were launched against soldiers with extremist right-wing leanings and associations. Germany’s elite Special Forces Command, with a disturbingly high number of cases, appears to be a particular hotbed. The director, however, said that there is no “shadow army” of extremists within the Bundeswehr plotting to topple the state authorities.

  • Radicalization

    The National Institute of Justice recently awarded nearly $1.5 million to START researchers for two new projects examining violent extremists’ radicalization, mobilization, and reintegration. Each project builds off the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) and associated datasets to educate law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, and provide them with strategies and best practices for terrorism prevention and extremist reintegration in their communities. 

  • Counterterrorism

    President Donald Trump has rescinded, reversed or otherwise ended many of former President Barack Obama’s signature policies – but not a prominent one. When it comes to fighting terrorism, the current commander-in-chief has upheld, and even extended, his predecessor’s linchpin strategy: using U.S. military special operations forces and targeted killings on a grand global scale.

  • Argument

    In mid-January the leaders of France, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania met to discuss how to bolster counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region, where Islamist terrorist activity has been steadily increasing. The background for the summit meeting were reports that the United States was considering reducing its contribution to an involvement in that campaign against Islamist terrorism. “. For the people in the Sahel, a U.S. retreat would leave them even more vulnerable to future terrorist attacks. Simply put, an American withdrawal would be penny-wise, but pound-foolish,” Olivier Rémy-Bel writes.

  • Doomsday clock

    The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is now closer to midnight than ever in its history. The Bulletin cites worsening nuclear threat, lack of climate action, and rise of “cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns” in moving the clock hand. December 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the first edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, initially a six-page, black-and-white bulletin and later a magazine, created in anticipation that the atom bomb would be “only the first of many dangerous presents from the Pandora’s Box of modern science.”

  • Extremism

    The German government has banned the neo-Nazi group Combat 18, and the German police conducted raids across Germany, after links were discovered connecting the group to the killing last June of pro-immigration politician from Angela Merkel’s conservative party. Combat 18 is the armed wing of the Blood & Honor neo-Nazi network which was founded in Britain in 1992 and established its German branch in 2000. Europol has warned that the network is getting stronger in more than a dozen European countries. The group chose the number “18” for its name because these numbers are the first and eighth letters in the alphabet —A and H— which are Adolf Hitler’s initials. The group’s motto is “Was Es braucht” (“What it takes”).

  • Argument

    The explosions from the recent U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani have sent shock waves reverberating across the Middle East. David Baron and Nora Bensahel write that those same shocks should now be rippling through the American national security establishment too. “Regardless of what happens next, one thing is certain: The United States has now made it even more likely that American military and civilian leaders will be targeted by future U.S. foes,” they write.

  • Extremism

    In recent years, deadly white supremacist violence at houses of worship in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and Poway demonstrated the clear line from violent hate speech and radicalization online to in-person violence. With perpetrators of violence taking inspiration from online forums, leveraging the anonymity and connectivity of the internet, and developing sophisticated strategies to spread their messages, the stakes couldn’t be higher in tackling online extremism. Researchers have developed the Redirect Method to counter white supremacist and jihadist activity online.

  • Perspective

    Does YouTube create extremists? It’s hard to argue that YouTube doesn’t play a role in radicalization, Chico Camargo writes. “In fact, maximizing watchtime is the whole point of YouTube’s algorithms, and this encourages video creators to fight for attention in any way possible.” Society must insist on using algorithm auditing, even though it is a difficult and costly process. “But it’s important, because the alternative is worse. If algorithms go unchecked and unregulated, we could see a gradual creep of conspiracy theorists and extremists into our media, and our attention controlled by whoever can produce the most profitable content.”

  • ISIS

    The governing coalition in Norway has lost its parliamentary majority after the far-right, populist Progress Party announced today (Monday) that it was leaving the government after the cabinet’s Friday decision to allow a Norwegian woman to return from Syria with her two young kids. One of the children requires medical treatment. The woman left for Syria in 2013 to marry an ISIS terrorists, and the children were born in Syria. The dilemma with which Norway has been grappling is reflected in other countries across Europe, which must decide whether or not to allow their citizens who left to join the fight in Syria or marry IS terrorists to return home.

  • African security

    U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) last week sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper concerning the possible troop reduction or complete withdrawal from the AFRICOM area of responsibility. “Africa is a continent full of potential, and this is the wrong time to withdraw U.S. troops serving to stabilize fragile regions of the continent, the senators write.

  • Argument

    In killing Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, with an MQ-9 Reaper drone, the United States openly targeted a senior official of a sovereign nation-state, carrying out a satisfying act of short-term revenge but undermining its long-term strategic interests. We are in a dangerous period: “Revenge is an ungovernable impulse that easily spirals out of control,” Audrey Kurth Cronin writes. “U.S. policymakers must resist the temptation to use their technological and military prowess to target senior government officials, remembering who is watching and learning from what they do.”

  • Terrorism

    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the 9 January attack on a military base in Niger, in which 89 soldiers were killed. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the Sahel region since Islamist groups began to escalate their activities in the region in 2015, and it came one month after a similar attack on another military base in Niger killed 71 soldiers. In 2019, Islamist terrorists killed more than 4,000 people in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

  • Terrorism

    The presidents of France, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad on Monday formulated a new framework for expanding military operations against Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region. The new framework – with greater contributions from France, the five African states, and several European countries – has become necessary because of the dramatic increase in terrorist activity in the region, and because of the Pentagon’s plans to reduce the U.S. military and intelligence presence in West Africa, and a corresponding reduction in the overall U.S. involvement in fighting Islamist terrorism in Africa.

  • Perspective

    A group of environmental activists engaged in civil disobedience targeting the oil industry have been listed in internal Department of Homeland Security documents as “extremists” and some of its members listed alongside white nationalists and mass killers. Those listed are five members of Climate Direct Action who formed what has been dubbed the Valve Turners, after closing the valves on pipelines in four states carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands on 11 October 2016. It was described as the largest coordinated action of its kind and for a few hours the oil stopped flowing.

  • Perspective

    So why do young people continue to be attracted to the ideas of both Islamist and far-right groups? Nikita Malik writes that the decisions by young people to join the ranks of an Islamist or far-right terrorist organization are similar to the decision young people make when deciding to join a crime gang. “Due to similar motivating factors regarding recruitment and retention of members, gangs offer an appropriate framework to youth in terrorist groups. Therefore, there is no need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak,” she writes.

  • Argument

    Robert Jervis, the eminent scholar of international relations, writes that in trying to predict the next move in the U.S.-Iran confrontation, “Most obviously, humility is in order”: “Most of our generalizations are probabilistic,” Jervis notes. He writes that Trump may have calculated that the bold move of killing Soleimani would deter Iran from continuing to pursue the kind of malign activities Soleimani had orchestrated, and coerce Iran to be more accommodating on other issues, for example, the nuclear issue. But for the target country, being deterred or coerced is a matter of choice – a costly choice, but still a choice. And we should not discount the unexpected: “World politics rarely follows straight paths,” he writes.

  • Argument

    News that the U.S. Department of Defense is contemplating a major drawdown in West Africa—potentially cutting support to France’s 4,500-strong combat mission in the Sahel as well—comes as the region is in crisis. France has been leading the fight against Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region since early 2013. “Not caring about Ghana’s fate is deplorable but understandable; not caring about France is at best reckless,” Michael Shurkin writes. “Leaving France in the lurch in the middle of the war could significantly damage that relationship. It would also signal to the world that the United States is not committed to helping even one of its closest and most important allies.”

  • Perspective

    In the days since the U.S. strike that killed Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani, Americans have heard dire warnings about potential retaliation by Iran. Eric Halliday writes that in addition to Quds Force, Iran’s ability to retaliate is enhanced by Iran’s extensive network of proxy forces, most notably Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran and Hezbollah have spent the last three decades creating international bases of operation, which means they already have resources in place which would allow them to strike U.S. interests far outside of the Middle East.