ARGUMENT: TERRORISM THREAT TO THE U.S. in 2024The Signal in the Noise: The 2023 Threats and Those on the Horizon

Published 9 January 2024

We enter the new year with “blinking lights everywhere,” Austin Doctor writes. “From a U.S. homeland security perspective, the terrorism threat in 2023 can be summarized as diverse, diffuse, and active. In 2024, we are likely to continue to see signs of continuing shifts in the terrorism landscape—such as the threats posed by lone juvenile offenders, the malign use of democratized technologies, and ‘violent resistance’ narratives adopted across the extremist ecosystem.”

A review of terrorist activity over the past year—focused on designated foreign terrorist organizations and U.S.-based violent extremists—reveals the foundations of a shifting terrorism landscape. Overseas and at home, the past year brought major terrorist attacks and notable counterterrorism operations.  These, considered alongside what we know about thwarted and failed plots over the past year, offer holistic insight into the character, depth, and breadth of the morphing terrorism threat to U.S. security and interests.

Austin Doctor, writing in Lawfare, analyzes terrorist-related developments in 2023 in different parts of the world, then focuses on the such developments in the United States:

The United States homeland and U.S. forces faced a steady and diverse set of terrorism threats in 2023. The international terrorism threat to U.S. homeland security was mixed, severe along some dimensions—attacks on U.S. military assets abroad and attempts to inspire U.S.-based homegrown violent extremist attacks—and less so on others—large-scale attacks on the U.S. homeland with direct planning and coordination from abroad). As described above, U.S. forces and assets abroad were attacked by terrorist actors throughout the year. In publicly available media and government reporting, there was little indication of an imminent external attack, such as the one thwarted in 2019. However, much of the terrorism threat in 2023 maintained a distinct international character—one that should not be overlooked. Aspiring foreign terrorist fighters in the U.S., many of whom are U.S. citizens, are still attempting to join the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, though many fewer than attempted to do so between 2013 and 2019. Many foreign terrorist networks and designated organizations also seek to inspire U.S.-based individuals to attack at home. A May 2023 Department of Homeland Security threat advisory bulletin warned that “foreign terrorists continue to use media to call for lone offender attacks in the West, condemn US foreign policy, and attempt to expand their reach and grow global support networks.” And this threat ramped up in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack. The international terrorism threat, of course, is not limited to jihadist violent extremism. Domestic violent extremists, including racially and ethnically motivated extremists, for example, are also increasingly connected with transnational networks of like-minded extremists, such as the Russian Imperial Movement