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December 2017

Shawn Snow, “US commandos carry out thousands of operations in Afghanistan,” Military Times. December 16, 2017. U.S. commandos have participated in or advised more than 2,000 ground operations in Afghanistan against terrorist organizations in the region. Importantly, this indicates that Afghan forces only independently conducted 17 percent of their operations.

Tara Copp, “Mattis: Pressure on Iran will be diplomatic, not military,” Military Times. December 16, 2017. The reconstruction of missile parts gathered after the attempted missile attack on Saudi Arabia earlier this year confirms Iranian participation in Yemen’s civil war through the arming of the Houthi rebels. Secretary of Defense Mattis has indicated that the U.S. response to this violation of the U.N. resolution supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will be diplomatic rather than military at this time.

James Kitfield, “What Will ‘Actually Solve’ Terrorism Problem?Breaking Defense. December 15, 2017. The elimination of top leadership in terrorist organizations, while giving the illusion of progress, has proved ineffective at eliminating the root causes of terrorism. Though helpful in stalling these groups, decapitation of senior leadership must be paired with a strategy that “break[s] the chain of radicalization.”

Arms supplied by U.S., Saudi ended up with Islamic State, researchers say,” Reuters. December 14, 2017. Conflict Armament Research (CAR) has determined that some of the weapons provided by the United States and Saudi Arabia to Syrian opposition groups are now in ISIS possession. CAR’s report reveals the complexity of providing support in conflicts in which party and faction lines are more fluid than most Western conflicts.

Bennett Seftel, “Pakistan’s Military: The Fire Brigade and the Arsonist,” The Cipher Brief. December 14, 2017. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan remains complicated as, for the sake of expedience, the United States works with Pakistan’s military and ISI, which undermines the civilian government with which the U.S. shares more interests. Pakistan’s military both claims to support U.S. efforts against the Taliban and Haqqani networks in Afghanistan while providing aid to those same organizations.

Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Shabaab targets Somali police academy in suicide attack,” FDD’s Long War Journal. December 14, 2017. In their first major attack since mid-November, Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, killed at least 18 people in a suicide bombing at a police academy in Mogadishu. The continued attacks by Shabaab in the region indicate the group’s resurgence in the region over the past year.

Bill Gertz, “Dire Warning: U.S. military ‘poorly structured,’ vulnerable to China, Russia threats,” The Washington Times. December 13, 2017. A Rand Corporation study warns that the United States may not be equipped to win wars against any of its five major threats: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or Islamist terrorist groups.

Bobby Anderson, “Political Islam, Intolerance, and the IS Threat in Indonesia,” Lowy Institute: the interpreter. December 13, 2017. Although political Islam and the enforcement of Sharia law is spreading throughout Indonesia, Anderson argues that it is unlikely that the region will see an IS-style scenario as occurred in places like Raqqa in Syria.

Brian Glyn Williams, “Aiqtihams (Whirlwinds),” RealClear Defense. December 13, 2017. Williams provides a comprehensive overview of the three-year fight against ISIS and then moves to detail the three main threats that the organization now poses, following its defeat in Iraq, arguing that the organization may be more difficult to combat now, as U.S. counterterrorism will now have to face a dangerous ideology rather than a physical target.

Caleb Weiss, “Tunisian al Qaeda wing claims IED ambush,” FDD’s Long War Journal. December 13, 2017. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) first attack since April of this year included the detonating of an IED in the Mount Chaambi region and claims that the attack killed six members of the Tunisian Armed Forces. The attack signals that, despite the organization’s setbacks this year, AQIM is still active in the region.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “AFRICOM strike halts Shabaab car bomb attack,” FDD’S Long War Journal. December 12, 2017. U.S. forces destroyed a suicide car bomb intended to target Mogadishu. The United States continues to ramp up its efforts against Shabaab in Somalia, as the organization has become increasingly dangerous in the past year.

Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, “Pentagon Foresees at Least Two More Years of Combat in Somalia,” The New York Times. December 10, 2017. The Pentagon presented a two-year operational plan for counterterrorism action in Somalia, that would instate a two-year, rather than 12 month, review that would be conducted internally, rather than with involvement from other agencies. The proposal indicates that the United States does not foresee a quick end to engagement in the region.

Habib Toumi, “Iran remains major terrorism sponsor in the region,” Gulf News. December 10, 2017. Speaking at the 2017 Manama Dialogue, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister indicated that Iran sponsored terrorism throughout the region and as far away as West Africa and Latin America. In the dialogue’s opening remarks, Sir John Jenkins argued that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is the most significant development in the Middle East in the past thirty years.

Maher Chmaytelli and Ahmed Aboulenein, “Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State,” Reuters. December 9, 2017. Iraq’s Prime Minister declared victory over ISIS two days following Russia’s declaration of the defeat of ISIS in Syria. Despite celebrating victory, the prime minister emphasized vigilance in the face of guerrilla warfare and revealed that the disarming of the PMF forces and the semi-autonomous Kurdish state remain issues of concern for Iraq’s government.

Sam Wilkins, “From Security to Reconciliation: How Nigeria Can Win Its Bloody War with Boko Haram,” War on the Rocks. December 8, 2017. Through a review of Alexander Thurston’s, Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement, Wilkins argues that the United States must commit to assisting Nigeria’s military in achieving an improved security environment. Only in doing so can the Nigerian government hope to defeat Boko Haram and create both “follow-through” governance and protection for populations vulnerable to jihadist propaganda.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “US strikes AQAP in Yemen’s Bayda,” FDD’s Long War Journal. December 8, 2017. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) released some details concerning strikes against AQAP and ISIS in Yemen in 2017. CENTCOM has launched more than 120 strikes against the terrorist organizations in Yemen, more than strikes against the groups in the region for the past three years combined. This indicates the rise of terrorism within Yemen as the conflict continues to undergo a devastating civil war.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda seeks to incite violence after US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” FDD’s Long War Journal. December 8, 2017. Al-Qaeda and several of its branches have released statements inciting violence after Trump’s announcement concerning the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Although al-Qaeda has failed to effectively tie its efforts in the past to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this new wave of propaganda may create a more effective link.

Bill Roggio, “US targets Taliban drug facilities in Helmand,” FDD’s Long War Journal. December 8, 2017. The United States continues its efforts to eliminate Taliban funding by attacking narcotics facilities in Afghanistan that directly contribute to the organization’s revenue.

Andrew Byers and Faith Stewart, “Trump, avoid the urge for US military intervention in Yemen,” The Hill. December 7, 2017. Byers and Stewart argue that the United States should resist the urge to further engage in military interventionism in Yemen because of the intractable nature of the conflicts there, and should restrict its efforts to humanitarian relief.

Terri Moon Cronk, “Military Not Only Solution to Terrorism in Africa,” U.S. Department of Defense. December 7, 2017. While the DoD remains focused on providing military support to African states as they seek to combat the terrorism within their states, the United States also emphasizes its goal of extending their partners’ capacities and capabilities to conduct such efforts without aid.  

Javier E. David, “Al Qaeda’s arm in North Africa has made around $100 million through ransom and drug trading, study says,” CNBC. December 6, 2017. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is considered al-Qaeda’s wealthiest branch and has executed attacks across Northern and West Africa.

Jack Detsch, “Pentagon acknowledges higher number of US troops in Syria,” Al-Monitor. December 6, 2017. A report indicating that there are now approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, rather than 500, the number reported as recently as last month. Detsch argues that while ISIS has been largely eradicated from the state, proxy conflicts with Russian and Iran as well as efforts to train Syrian security forces will, at least in the short term, keep the United States involved in the conflict.

Steve Holland and Phil Stewart, “Trump asks Saudi Arabia to allow immediate aid to Yemen,” Reuters. December 6, 2017. In a statement to reporters last week, President Trump publicly pressured Saudi Arabia to allow aid to Yemen in order to combat the humanitarian crisis that has grown exponentially since the Saudi blockade began last month.

Sadaf Jaffer, “Finding Hope in Islamic History,” Foreign Policy Research Institute. December 5, 2017. Jaffer compares Islamic extremists to those who characterize the religion as violent and authoritarian by arguing that both parties place Islam in a narrowly-defined box. Jaffer argues that only by defining Islam through and understanding of human rights and equality can extremist violence be defeated.

Thomas Joscelyn, “US and Afghan forces target al-Qaeda operatives in 3 provinces,” FDD’s Long War Journal. December 5, 2017. The United States and Afghanistan continue to fight against the influence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban within the nation. Recent attacks against the terrorist organizations have resulted in the deaths of several major al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, while simultaneously indicating the growing role of AQIS in al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan.

Mohammed Ayoob, “Dangerous portents in the Middle East,” ASPI: The Strategist. December 5, 2017. An argument that despite the defeat of ISIS in Syria, the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran is fueling the instability in the Middle East.

Bart Marcois, “Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Death Is a Turning Point in Yemen,” OpsLens. December 4, 2017. A brief article arguing that Saleh’s death indicates the beginning of the end of Yemen’s civil war.

Ashish Kumar Sen, “Iranian-backed Houthis Just Caused a Self-Inflicted Wound by Killing Yemen’s Former President,” Atlantic Council. December 4, 2017. Sen indicates that by killing former president Saleh, the Houthis have lost political legitimacy in Yemen. Further, while Saleh had extended a peace overture to the Saudi-led coalition prior to his death, the Saudis are unlikely to “put much faith in the remaining leaders of the GPC (Saleh’s political party).”

 Jack Detsch, “US weapons pour into Lebanon amid turmoil,” Al-Monitor. December 4, 2017. Despite the political turmoil in Lebanon and the Trump Administration’s open aspirations to cut foreign military funding, the United States continues to fund Lebanon’s armed forces in an effort to help the government fight the growing number of ISIS and other militants along its northeastern border.

November 2017

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “US targets Islamic State in northeastern Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal. November 27, 2017. The United States continues to target ISIS fighters in Africa, with this strike likely occurring in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia known to be hosting an ISIS training camp.

Courtney Kube, Hans Nichols, and Mosheh Gains, “U.S. on track to triple bombs dropped on Afghanistan against Taliban,” NBC News. November 20, 2017. The United States has dropped almost triple the number of bombs on Taliban targets in Afghanistan in 2017 as opposed to last year. This indicates the growing U.S. emphasis on the threat that the Taliban, and its alliance with al-Qaeda, pose to the Middle East and the world.

Philip Obaji Jr., “Here’s How ISIS Won Over the Villagers Where the Green Berets Were Ambushed,” The Daily Beast. November 1, 2017. Obaji discusses the “hearts and minds” method used by al-Qaeda and ISIS in order to garner local support. Militants provide information, infrastructure, and resources while simultaneously spreading anti-American sentiment. Consequently, local villagers are often anti-American as a result of false information spread by Islamic militants in the region.

October 2017

Carlo Muñoz, “U.S. ramps up air war against Islamic State in Yemen as fight subsides in Iraq and Syria,” The Washington Times. October 30, 2017. The United States continues to target al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates in Yemen through more than 100 air strikes this year, as ISIS is defeated in Raqqa and Mosul. The United States and its allies also hope to weaken the groups’ economic standing by placing a series of sanction against nine terrorist leaders in Yemen.

Bennett Seftel, “With Coffers Draining, ISIS May Seek Donations and Step Up Crime,” The Cipher Brief. October 27, 2017. Seftel argues that coalition efforts to hurt ISIS’ illicit economy have proven effective. The decrease in the terrorist organization’s revenue has also hurt the group’s morale, by reducing salaries and reimbursements. However, Seftel cautions that despite territory loss, ISIS and its ideology is unlikely to be defeated in its entirety.

Caleb Weiss, “Kurdish and Iraqi forces, militias clash in northern Iraq,” FDD’s Threat Matrix. October 26, 2017. Iraqi forces, backed by Iranian-supported Popular Mobilization Units, continue to confront Kurdish forces in areas previously held by the KRG. The increased Iraqi aggression is considered to be the result of the Kurdish independence referendum. Although the referendum has been suspended, Iraqi forces continue to assault KRG-held regions.

Erik Goepner and Trevor Thrall, “Time to Step Back from the War on Terror,” War on the Rocks. October 26, 2017. Goepner and Thrall argue that the terrorist threat against the United States homeland does not warrant the military efforts of the U.S. forces in the Middle East. Rather, they claim that the United States should withdraw its military personnel from the region and allow local governments to professionalize their bureaucracies and security forces.

Christina Goldbaum, “Exclusive: Inside the Secret Mission That Got a Navy Seal Killed in Africa,” The Daily Beast. October 26, 2017. An in-depth report on the raid that took place in Daarasalaam, Somalia and resulted in the death of Navy Seal, Kyle Milliken. Goldbaum discusses American involvement in the region and supports the understanding that American forces had been operating in Somalia long before President Trump declared some of Somalia to be areas of active hostilities.

Alhurra Interview with LTG H.R. McMaster, Small Wars Journal. October 25, 2017. McMaster provides insight into the problems caused by Iranian influence on Iraq’s internal affairs. He also mentions the importance of empowering the victims of terrorist occupations in order to prevent an offshoot of ISIS from growing out of its defeat. McMaster concludes by emphasizing the importance of destroying terrorist safe havens, cutting their funding, and defeating their ideology in order to resolve conflict between the GCC countries.

Daniel DePetris, “We Must Listen to Clausewitz,” RealClear Defense. October 24, 2017. DePetris argues that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is starting to use military force as an end in itself, rather than in the Clausewitzian fashion of using military violence as a continuation of politics. DePetris warns against American mission creep and emphasizes the need for Middle Eastern political problems to remain within the region.

Jonathan Dworkin, “The Kurds: Seeking Their Yorktown,” Small Wars Journal. October 22, 2017. Interviews with two senior fellows at the Middle East Institute provide valuable insight into the Kurdish question and its impact on regional stability and American interests.

Carlos Oroza, “The President’s Decision for Afghanistan Matters,” U.S. Naval Institute: Proceedings Magazine. October 2017. Oroza argues that President Trump should not turn decision-making regarding Afghanistan over to the Pentagon as this “divorces the political primacy of the military objective.” He argues this based on principles of risk aversion and utility theory, indicating that military personnel will be willing to accept more risk than the President.

Russel Worth Parker, “Terrorism and Just War,” RealClear Defense. October 23, 2017. Parker examines the correlations between Western Just War theory and Shari’a, which governs Islamic war. He concludes that terrorism does not meet either Western or Shari’a based theories of just war and presents the idea that this illegitimacy can be used to combat the perversion of terrorist ideology.

Isaac Kfir, “Somalia’s 9/11,” ASPI: The Strategist. October 23, 2017. Kfir notes the continued violence in Somalia in an examination of the deadly attack earlier this month that killed more than 320 people and injured 500 more. The author indicates that clannism is the root cause of violence in the region, arguing that violent extremism cannot be addressed without first addressing conflicts between regional clans and tribes.

Sarah El Deeb, “U.S.-Allied Force Takes Syria’s Largest Oil Field from Islamic State,” RealClear Defense. October 22, 2017. The Kurdish-led SDF captured the Al-Oman oil field in the Deir el-Zour province on October 22, 2017 after pro-government forces took heavy fire from ISIS. Despite the defeat of ISIS in the region, it is unclear how Assad’s government will respond.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamini, “Iraqi Kurdistan’s Crisis: A Failure of Strategy,” American Spectator. October 22, 2017. Al-Tamini argues against U.S. support for an independent Kurdistan and suggests that the best American policy will be one of mediation between the KRG and Baghdad.

Bill Roggio, “Leader of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar emerges after reports of his death,” FDD’S Long War Journal. October 22, 2017. The emir of the Pakistani Taliban, Omar Khalid Khurasani, issued a statement confirming the death of another JuA military leader in July 2016. Khurasani was believed dead prior to this statement, and the conflicting reports reveal the difficulty in confirming the targets of drone strikes.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, and Adam Goldman, “A Newly Assertive C.I.A. Expands Its Taliban Hunt in Afghanistan,” The New York Times. October 22, 2017. In keeping with President Trump’s more aggressive anti-terrorism strategy, the CIA will expand its operations in Afghanistan as it hunts Taliban bomb-makers. CIA Director Mike Pompeo believes that assertive action is the only way to effect change in the increasingly insecure region.

Ammar Cheikh Omar and Saphora Smith, “Generation ISIS: When Children Are Taught to Be Terrorists,” NBC News. October 21, 2017. Omar and Smith discuss the ramifications of the ISIS-enforced education system on the generation of children who have grown up in ISIS-held territories. They address the reality that many of these children are brainwashed and will need significant psychological support before being able to constructively contribute to society.

John Kester and Jana Winter, “Pentagon Report: IED Casualties Surge in Afghanistan,” Foreign Policy. October 20, 2017. While IED casualties have fallen in other areas of conflict, they have increased 8% in Afghanistan. Such attacks make it difficult for counterinsurgency efforts and humanitarian aid, while simultaneously raising the visibility of insurgencies.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban overruns Afghan army camp in Kandahar,” FDD’S Long War Journal. October 19, 2017. Another attack by the Taliban on an Afghan military base indicates the growing threat posed by the Taliban. Despite American troops increases, the Taliban continues to gain strategic ground as Afghanistan‘s security situation worsens.

Amir Toumaj, “Russia and Iran help capture Syria’s al Mayadeen from Islamic State,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 19, 2017. Pro-regime forces in Syria continue to gain ground against ISIS strongholds in the region. Despite support from Russia and Iran against ISIS, pro-Assad forces still face opposition from the SDF as ISIS forces are eliminated.

Douglas A. Ollivant, “America’s Opportunity in Iraq Is Ready to Be Seized,” War on the Rocks. October 18, 2017. Ollivant discusses the idea that due to America‘s aid in helping Iraq to defeat ISIS and establish political and military security within the region, the United States wields significant influence over Iraqi affairs. He argues that the United States should use this influence to press national interests, particularly a bipartisan Kurdish-Iraqi solution, as Iraq approaches its April elections.

Faith Karimi, “U.S. has drones and hundreds of troops in Niger. Here’s why,” CNN: Politics. October 18, 2017. In the wake of the deaths of American military personnel in Niger, Karimi presents the larger context for U.S. presence in the region. Niger is strategic in the regional fights against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Nigeria, Libya, and Mali.

Margaret Coker, Eric Schmitt, and Rukmini Callimachi, “With Loss of Its Caliphate, ISIS May Return to Guerilla Roots,” The New York Times. October 18, 2017. Fear of undercover sleeper cells and lone wolf attacks prevent “victory” over ISIS. Although its landed caliphate may be lost, its ideology and network is both prominent and active across the globe.

Max Boot, “Can the United States Broker Peace Between Iraq and the Kurds?Defense One. October 18, 2017. Boot argues that while the Kurds have been a staunch Western ally and are an obvious choice for Washington to support, the best option for the United States is to pursue an agreement between the Kurds and Iraq. Such an agreement would continue to provide autonomy to the de facto Kurdish state, while simultaneously protecting Iraqi unity.

Thanassis Cambanis, “The War on ISIS Held the Middle East Together,” The Atlantic. October 17, 2017. Cambanis argues that ISIS held the fracturing pieces of the Middle East together by creating a common enemy. In the face of a defeated ISIS, “state collapse and unaddressed minority grievances” will pick up again as the region’s most pressing concerns.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban overruns 3 districts in southern Afghanistan,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 17, 2017. The Taliban continues to make gains in Afghanistan, despite the new U.S. strategy, loosening rules of engagement.

Jack Moore, “Trump Targets ISIS in Yemen for First Time with Strikes on Training Camps,” Newsweek. October 17, 2017. U.S. military targeted and killed dozens of ISIS fighters with its first raid against ISIS in Yemen. This comes after an ISIS training video surfaced last week, ostensibly showing ISIS training recruits in the ungoverned areas of Yemen. Previously, the U.S. had focused on AQAP, al-Qaeda’s branch in the region, which had also taken advantage of the relatively lawlessness that has followed Yemen‘s civil war.

U.S. Central Command Raids ISIS Training Camps in Yemen,” Asharq al-Awsat. October 17, 2017. While noting the same strikes as many other news sources, this pan-Arab paper indicates that locals and Yemeni security officials believes that the U.S. strikes hit members of AQAP rather than ISIS.

Balint Szlanko, “Iraqi Forces Begin ‘Major, Multi-pronged’ Attacks on Kurds to Retake Kirkuk,” RealClear Defense. October 16, 2017. Military action follows the Iraqi central government’s rejection of the Kurdish independence referendum that took place last month. While the United States has supplied both sides of this conflict in efforts against ISIS, U.S. officials urge unity rather succession.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “Iraqi forces capture contentious Kirkuk in overnight offensive,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 16, 2017. Iraqi military forces took Kirkuk after their recent success against ISIS in Hawija. This action highlights the fractures in the anti-ISIS coalition and within the Iraqi central government. It further highlights Iranian influence on Iraqi politics.

Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State-loyal group calls for people to join the jihad in the Congo,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 15, 2017. Although there has not yet been affirmation of the group’s official loyalty to ISIS, the call indicates that despite land losses in Syria, ISIS’s ideology continues to pervade the region.

Assad A. Raza, “Special Operations Support to Conflict Prevention,” Small Wars Journal. October 12, 2017. Raza discusses the importance of conflict prevention in protecting both regional and global environments from violent popular uprisings. It further argues that many of these popular extremists are the result of increased globalization and indicates that U.S. Special Operations can play a role in preventing the negative effects of populism.

Saphora Smith, “Fall of ISIS Stronghold Raqqa Will Change War on Extremists, Not End It,” NBC News. October 11, 2017. Smith argues that the fall of Raqqa will likely cause ISIS to become a terrorist organization, exporting its violence abroad, rather than eliminating the group. This will require that coalition partners fight ISIS ideology, something more complex than the ground battle taking place in the devastated Syrian city.

U.S. insists no negotiations with ISIS holdouts in Raqqa,” CBS News. October 11, 2017. Despite concerns about the safety of civilians in Raqqa, U.S.-backed SDF forces remain committed to an unconditional surrender from remaining ISIS militants. Russia blames the U.S. for ‘selective blindness’ in allowing ISIS militants to cross from Iraq to Syria, forcing Russia to deal with the new fighters.

Osamah Golpy, “Abadi wins ISIS war, Maliki wins elections: Time for US to shift policy on Kurdistan,” Rudaw Media Network. October 2, 2017. Golpy discusses the U.S. “One Iraq” policy and indicates that the policy will not stand past the next elections, arguing that the United States needs to address the fractured nature of Iraqi politics in order to establish a regional situation that best benefits American interests.

Phil Hegseth, “Lessons learned from 15 years in Afghanistan: SIGAR,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 2, 2017. Hegseth discusses the primary findings of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, concluding that both civilian support for ANDSF and high attrition rates are contributing to the shortcomings of the Afghani security forces.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban parades forces openly in Nimroz,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 5, 2017. Brief article that notes the Taliban’s continued ability to operate openly prevents the Coalition and Afghan military from rolling back its gains.

Bill Roggio, “Iraqi troops, Iranian-backed militias eject Islamic States from Hawija,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 5, 2017. Roggio notes that the Iraqi military has defeated one of the two remaining ISIS strongholds in Iraq with the help of the Iranian-backed PMF forces. It further indicates the difficulty of incorporating Iranian-backed forces into the Iraqi security apparatus – creating a tenuous Iraqi hold on its own national security.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Ayman al Zawahiri argues jihadists can’t deceive America,” FDD’s Long War Journal. October 5, 2017. Joscelyn analyzes Zawahiri’s recent statements that critique the jihadist unification effort in Syria. Zawahiri has warned his followers that they will not be able to deceive America by disassociating with certain terrorist organizations, and instead urges unity in order to better face their enemy. Joscelyn notes that this is in contrast to some of Zawahiri’s previous statements, revealing a lack of continuity in the al-Qaeda leader’s messages.

Bethan McKernan, “ISIS retakes town 200 miles into Syrian government territory in surprise counter attack,” Independent. October 2, 2017. While ISIS has taken control of a town approximately 200 miles from its stronghold in Deir Ezzor, it is unlikely that the insurgents will be able to maintain control so far from their supply lines. McKernan also posits that global terrorist attacks carried out by the group are likely to increase as ISIS continues to lose ground.

Levi Maxey, “Regime Change: What Is It Good For?The Cipher Brief. October 1, 2017. Maxey discusses the pros and cons of regime change in nations unfriendly to the United States. The article presents the differences between overt and covert efforts to produce such change and highlights some of the potential risks and complications of such actions.

September 2017

Thomas Jocelyn and Bill Roggio, “US resumes strikes against Islamic State in Libya,” September 30, 2017. The United States resumed aerial strikes against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Libya after an eight-month hiatus. Over the past two years, the United States has launched over 500 strikes against ISIS and at least one against al-Qaeda in the region.

Joshua Yasmeh, “Why is the West Arming Qatar?RealClear Defense. September 29, 2017. Yasmeh argues that while the United States must be vigilant in assessing Qatar’s terrorist ties, its relations with opposing Sunnis are perhaps no less dangerous. The article concludes by indicating that by arming both Shi’ite Qatar, and Sunni Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the United States is repeating the role it played in the Iran-Iraq War.

Zachary Griffiths, “Is There a Thai Way of Counterinsurgecy?Modern War Institute. September 29, 2017. Griffiths assesses Dr. Jeff Moore’s, The Thai Way of Counterinsurgency, concluding that despite its claims, Moore‘s book provides little solid evidence that Thai counterinsurgency methods can be applied elsewhere. Griffiths does concede that the Thai method of integrating insurgent grievances and offering amnesty could be useful in areas like Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Daniel Byman, “Divisions Within the Global Jihad: A Primer,” Lawfare. September 29, 2017. Byman provides some important analysis of the various doctrinal differences and divisions within the global jihadist movement.

Thomas Jocelyn, “Islamic State radio tries to quell controversy over takfir,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies. September 26, 2017. Jocelyn discusses the six-part radio series released by Islamic States leaders following the revoking of the controversial May 17 memo on takfir, noting the divisions and fractures that are likely the result of the memo, while also indicating that an internal power struggle is contributing to the ongoing controversy and discord.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban retakes district in Afghan northwest,” FDD’s Long War Journal. September 25, 2017. The Taliban has retaken the district of Kohistan, which has changed hands several times in the past few months. The Taliban remains on the offensive despite the United States loosening the rules of engagement to better target the group.

Thomas Jocelyn, “US strikes Islamic State camp in Libyan desert,” The Long War Journal. September 24, 2017. The United States conducted its first precision airstrike in Libya this year after an ISIS propaganda video showed footage of a camp in Libya‘s ungoverned desert. The airstrike reportedly killed 17 jihadists. Jocelyn also notes the difference between ISIS‘ advertisement of its status in Libya in contrast to al-Qaeda, which has attempted to obscure its presence in the region.

Brian Jenkins, “Bush, Obama, and Trump: The Evolution of U.S. Counterterrorist Policy Since 9/11,” International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. September 24, 2017. Jenkins analyzes the evolution of the U.S. counterterrorism policy since September 11, arguing in part that the Trump administration’s policies and positions may come to differ sharply from both Bush and Obama administrations.

Fritz Lodge, “The Promises and Perils of Syrian Kurdistan,” The Cipher Brief. September 22, 2017. Lodge details the future complexities of Syrian Kurdistan after the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa. Although the Kurds have been the most reliable forces aiding the effort against ISIS in Syria, the United States is likely to rescind support for the group following the fall of Raqqa in order to appease NATO ally, Turkey.

Thomas Jocelyn, “Iraq forces launch offensive against Islamic State in Hawijah,” The Long War Journal. September 21, 2017. Iraqi forces, in conjunction with U.S. and other allied forces, launched an offensive against Hawijah, one of ISIS‘ last remaining strongholds inside Iraq. ISIS propaganda implicitly acknowledges that it is no longer expanding, but urges its followers to remain committed in the face of challenge.

Shazar Shafqat, “Is the U.S. prepared for Islamic State’s Latest Terror Tactic?RealClear Defense. September 20, 2017. Shafqat highlights the threat of global, vehicular terrorist attacks as ISIS becomes increasingly desperate.

Thomas Jocelyn, “Islamic State rescinds one of its most problematic religious rulings,” The Long War Journal. September 20, 2017. ISIS released a one-page memo rescinding the controversial religious ruling of its broad application of takfir (the practice of declaring other Muslims to be non-believers due to their supposed apostasy or heresy). The memo urged its members to refer to earlier teachings and rulings, and implicitly admits that its ruling council has committed a serious error.

Stuart Murray and Patrick Blannin, “Diplomacy and the War on Terror,” Small Wars Journal. September 18, 2017. Murray and Blannin argue that analysis of the War on Terror needs to include the role of diplomacy in order to provide meaningful assessment of past and future operations and achievements.

Bill Roggio, “U.S. Drones Strike Jihadists in Pakistan,” The Long War Journal. September 15, 2017. Three people were killed in the first U.S. drone strike in Pakistan since June. Roggio posits that drone strikes in Pakistan are likely to increase following President Trump’s accusation that Pakistan is harboring jihadi terrorists.

Bennett Seftel, “Al-Qaeda Thrives Across Weak West African States,” The Cipher Brief. September 14, 2017. Report that details the rise of AQIM in the West African States suffering from weak central governments and limited access to basic necessities. Seftel emphasizes the potential threat the AQIM poses as the French grow either weary or incapable of continued intervention and the remainder of the international community remains focused on ISIS.

Robert Cassidy, “American’s Afghanistan Strategy,” RealClear Defense. September 13, 2017. Cassidy praises the new American Afghanistan strategy as one that embraces conditions on the ground rather than timelines as a measure of the strategy’s success. Cassidy also emphasizes the importance of pressuring Pakistan to end its aid to the Islamic militants that are giving life to the Afghan stalemate.

Earl Anthony Wayne, “The New Afghanistan Policy Is Set. The Question Is How to Implement It,” The National Interest. September 13, 2017. Wayne discusses the diplomatic and strategic difficulties of implementing the new U.S. policy for Afghanistan. He discusses both the necessity of involving allies like China, Russia, India, and Pakistan as each is beneficial to the process, despite diplomatic differences between them. He also emphasizes the need for reduced corruption and increased reform within Afghanistan.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, “‘I want to finish this’: US Special Ops Leaders Urge Washington to Stick by the Syrian Kurds,” Defense One. September 13, 2017. Lemmon reports on the sentiments of U.S. special ops forces in Syria, who indicate that the SDF is currently doing a successful job of freeing towns and cities from Daesh and then returning governance to local leaders. Despite political push-back in Washington, forces on the ground believe that continued U.S. support for the Syrian Kurds is imperative to preventing the return of extremism.

Bill Roggio, “AFRICOM hits Shabaab with 3 ‘precision airstrikes,” The Long War Journal. September 13, 2017. As a result of relaxed restrictions in March of this year, the United States continues to aid the Somalian and African Union forces that are currently fighting Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, near the capital of Mogadishu.

Zach Beauchamp, “16 years after 9/11, al-Qaeda is back,” Vox News. September 11, 2017. Beauchamp discusses al-Qaeda’s tactic for rebuilding its organization in the shadow of ISIS. The author discusses the possibility that this tactic will change once al-Qaeda feels sufficiently strong enough to resist or rebuff Western retaliation to a larger terrorist attack.

Conrad E. Orr, “The Terrorist Diaspora, its Returnees, and Disrupting the Rise of Homegrown Violent Extremists,” Small Wars Journal. September 6, 2017. Overview of the problems stemming from the return of foreign fighters to their home countries and the potential impact on violent extremism within the nations to which they are returning.

Michael J. Mooney, “Iraq, the Islamic State, and War Termination,” Small Wars Journal. September 5, 2017. An open letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister presenting major questions that need to be addressed as ISIS is eliminated from Iraqi territory.

Imran Sharih, “The Road to Peace in Kabul Runs Through Kashmir,” Small Wars Journal. September 3, 2017. Argues for the need for negotiation between India and Pakistan in order to establish a lasting solution in Afghanistan.

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “ISIS After the Caliphate,” Small Wars Journal. September 2, 2017. Byers and Mooney argue that the physical defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq will not mean the end of the organization, which will continue to operate in cyberspace and elsewhere in the greater Middle East. Additionally, ISIS may come to serve as a model for other groups.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Al-Qaeda linked jihadist in Kashmir criticizes Pakistani Army,” Long War Journal. September 2, 2017. Article detailing the newest jihadi group to come to the forefront of the Kashmiri jihad. The article discusses its potential ties to al-Qaeda and indicates that Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind has separated itself from the Pakistani government, which has long supported the jihadist effort against India in Kashmir.

Bill Roggio, “Anatomy of a Taliban Ambush,” Long War Journal. September 1, 2017. Detailed report on a recent Taliban ambush on an Afghani convoy. Roggio indicates that despite a U.S. air presence, the Taliban does not fear being targeted from the air.

August 2017

Ronan Zeidel, “The Dawa’ish: A Collective Profile of IS Commanders,” Perspectives on Terrorism. Volume 11, Issue 4 (2017). A report examining the social, tribal and regional backgrounds of IS commanders in an effort to create a better understanding of the social and political background of IS.

Thomas R. McCabe, “The Islamic State After the Caliphate – Can IS Go Underground?Perspectives on Terrorism. Volume 11, Issue 4 (2017). McCabe argues that IS will have difficulty continuing to operate after defeat and will struggle to retain a following if it attempts to go underground. However, he indicates that although defeating IS would be a victory, Al-Qaeda, having integrated itself more symbiotically within societies, will likely continue to rise in absence of IS

Jack Moore and Danielle Palumbo, “ISIS Global: Where Next for the Jihadi Group as its Caliphate Crumbles?Newsweek. August 31, 2017. Excellent overview of ISIS’s capabilities and status throughout the greater Middle East.

Jason Thomas, “The New Era of Non-State Actors: Warfare and Entropy,” Small Wars Journal. August 24, 2017. Thomas describes how state enemies of the West-like China-use relationships with non-state actors in order to wage successful asymmetric warfare against the West and its local allies.

Christopher Clary, “Afghanistan, Pakistan and the limits of U.S. influence,” War on the Rocks. August 23, 2017. Clary argues for the inextricably linked nature of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan and notes the strength of Pakistan‘s hand relative to the United States as the Trump administration begins a reassessment of U.S. strategy in the region.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “Mapping terrorist groups openly operating in Pakistan,” Long War Journal. August 23, 2017. Roggio and Gutowski provide a useful map and analysis of the various terrorist groups openly operating within Pakistani borders.

Marcel Plichta, “The Danger of Not Supplementing Aid to Africa With Arms: The Case of the Central Africa Republic,” Small Wars Journal. August 22, 2017. Plichta argues for the importance of providing arms in addition to other forms of aid to developing countries in Africa in order to provide their military forces with the ability to maintain their own security in the face of violence and the rise of militant forces.

Alexandra Gutowski, “The Syrian regime’s offensive towards Deir Ezzor,” Long War Journal. August 18, 2017. Analysis of the Russian-supported multi-axis offensive being carried out by the Syrian regime against ISIS-held strongholds in eastern Syria and other recent developments (including operations of the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa).

Bill Roggio, “Taliban seizes large quantity of weapons during ‘Recent Conquests in Kandahar,” Long War Journal. August 17, 2017. Report discussing the Taliban capture of a military base in Khakrez late last month and some of the strategic implications of the increase in Taliban territorial holdings in the Kandahar province.

Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, “Taliban propagandists release ‘open letter’ to President Trump,” Long War Journal. August 15, 2017. Analysis of the Taliban’s recent “open letter” to the United States as the Trump administration conducts its review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

Mohammed Naved Ferdaus Iqbal, “Leapfrogging: Terrorists and State Actors,” Small Wars Journal. August 13, 2017. Analysis of the ways in which the intelligence capabilities of violent non-state actors mimic and often “leapfrog” the intelligence capabilities of their state adversaries.

Maher Farrukh, “Yemen Crisis Situation Report,” Critical Threats. August 11, 2017. Overview of the diverse crises underway in Yemen, including several attacks by ISIS and AQAP.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban retakes eastern Afghan district from Afghan forces,” Long War Journal. August 10, 2017. Roggio details the Afghan forces’ difficulty in maintaining control over Afghanistan’s remote, contested territories, highlighting the threat posed by continuing Taliban operations.

Peter Chalk, “Mindanao: A New Hub for Islamic State?RealClear Defense, August 1, 2017. An update on the new wave of extremist violence in the Philippines and ISIS’ interest in opening up a new front in its global jihad there.

July 2017

Conor Gaffey, “War on Boko Haram: Nigeria is Hunting Africa’s Most Wanted Terrorist, But Will Killing Him End the Conflict?Newsweek. July 29, 2017. Discusses Boko Haram’s transition from regional terrorist group to an offshoot of the Islamic State and the transition’s impact on its leadership structure. It concludes by arguing that even if Nigerian military manages to kill Abubakar Shekau, terrorist violence in the region is likely to continue.

Will Picard, “The Danger of a Grand Bargain: The Wrong Peace Deal Could Mean Endless War in Yemen,” Just Security. July 25, 2017. Picard criticizes the Saudi-Emirati-General People’s Congress (GPC) “Grand Bargain” in Yemen, instead favoring a U.N.-led peace deal that reconciles some of the revolutionary demands that re-ignited the conflict in 2014 and stressing the importance of an effective peace deal on American security and highlighting the growth of al-Qaeda and ISIS in the region over the course of the ongoing conflict.

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “Al-Qaeda in the Age of ISIS,” Small Wars Journal, July 24, 2017. With the global focus on ISIS, not as much attention is being paid to Al-Qaeda. This is a longer, analytic piece (building on a previous op-ed) that examines the prospects of leadership decapitation for counterterrorism efforts and analyzes Al-Qaeda’s survival strategies after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Bill Roggio, “Shabaab gains in Somalia due to ‘lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations’,” Long War Journal. July 22, 2017. Roggio demonstrates that al-Qaeda’s Somalia branch, Shabaab, has gained ground in East Africa due to a lack of counterterrorism efforts in the region. This article is one of a sizeable number arguing that in the age of ISIS, al-Qaeda is growing steadily in the shadows, positioning itself to regain global power and influence following the inevitable fall of the Islamic State.

Michael Knights and Alex Mello, “The Best Thing America Built in Iraq: Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service and the Long War Against Militancy,” War on the Rocks. July 19, 2017. Iraq‘s Counter-Terrorism Service provides a light in the otherwise bleak landscape that is the U.S. effort to build a successful Iraqi security service. Knights and Mello question the role that the Counter-Terrorism Service will have in the post-ISIS age.

Robert T. Souza and Brian Glyn Williams, “Death of a Jihadi Dream: The Battle of Mosul,” RealClear Defense, July 18, 2017. A lengthy piece that offers more details on the Battle of Mosul and its implications for ISIS.

Thomas Joscelyn, “The Terrorist Diaspora: After the Fall of the Caliphate,” The Long War Journal, July 14, 2017. Joscelyn’s testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States that discusses some of the implications for the dispersion of would-be jihadists after the anticipated fall of ISIS in the Levant.

Adam Petno, “ISIS in the Philippines,” RealClear Defense, July 14, 2017. Update on the current status of ISIS activities in the Philippines, which is rapidly shaping up as a new theater in ISIS’ global jihad.

Katherine Zimmerman, “Al-Qaeda’s Strengthening in the Shadows,” Statement before the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. July 13, 2017. In a statement to the House Homeland Security Committee, Zimmerman argues that by acting below the level of Western redline policy, al-Qaeda has adapted to become a decentralized, popularly accepted organization poised to take advantage of the power vacuum that will follow ISIS’ ultimate defeat.

Brett McGurk and Iraqi Prime Minister, Dr. Naufel al Hassan, Remarks at Global Coalition Small Group Meeting. July 13, 2017. Remarks made at the Global Coalition Small Group meeting argue that ISIS is in disarray following the supposed death of al-Baghdadi on July 11, 2017 and focuses primarily on the importance of post-ISIS humanitarian and stabilization aid in regions previously occupied by the terrorist group.

Daniel Byman, “Frustrated Foreign Fighters,” Lawfare. July 12, 2017. Returned foreign fighters pose a significant terrorism threat to their home countries, but Byman argues that policies that aim to block the flow of foreigners frustrate some of these would-be jihadists, though that frustration poses new problems.

Jennifer Cafarella, “ISIS’ Global Campaign Remains Intact,” Institute for the Study of War. July 12, 2017. A brief report concluding that ISIS continues to maintain its global campaign and strategy by acting decisively in each of its four “rings” and continuing to work towards its stated objectives.

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “Marketing to Extremists: Waging War in Cyberspace,” Small Wars Journal, July 9, 2017. Countering violent extremism online is a topic that lends itself to generalities, but this piece offers a set of specific ideas that could be deployed immediately in the countering extremism struggle.

Issie Lapowsky, “Banks Deploy AI to Cut Off Terrorists’ Funding,” Wired, July 9, 2017. Lapowsky examines a new program that utilizes AI to identify money-laundering and terrorist financing that traditional “if-then” programs struggle to identify.

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “Al Qaeda in the age of ISIS,” The Hill, July 7, 2017: Byers and Mooney argue that the West has failed to pay sufficient attention to Al-Qaeda, which remains an active, viable force, mostly through its franchises, and could be poised to take advantage of the collapse of ISIS in the future.

Ben Watson, “What the Largest Battle of the Decade Says about the Future of War,” Defense One, July 7, 2017: A detailed, quantitative assessment of the battle of Mosul (October 2016 – June 2017) that expelled ISIS from the city, including some lessons for future military operations.

Charlie Winter, “IS Attacks in Tehran – Scenarios and Implications,” ICSR: Department of War Studies. July 6, 2017. Concise insight into the potentially problematic impact of ISIS’ attacks on Iran, one of the region’s most stable actors, both regionally and on a larger global scale.

S. M. Carlson, “Assessment of Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability,” Divergent Options, July 4, 2017: Carlson assesses the “changing threat posed by Libyan terrorists, trained fighters, and their capability and intent to reach into Europe,” which encompasses multiple groups.

June 2017

Christopher Bolan, “Winning the War Against Terrorism (Again and Again),” Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College,” June 26, 2017: Boland analyzes the current state of ISIS and makes a series of policy recommendations for the West on how to stabilize the region and deal with the aftermath of ISIS.

Manni Crone, Maja Felicia Falkentoft, Teemu Tammikko, “European citizens, not refugees, behind most terrorist attacks in Europe,” DIIS Report. June 21, 2017. A comprehensive study of EU refugee strategy and policy indicates that citizens are more likely to be involved in terrorism than refugees, but also raises concerns about the possible disenfranchisement of second generation refugees.

Brian Michael Jenkins, “The Islamic State’s Disposable Army,” RAND, June 20, 2017: Jenkins assesses the current state of ISIS as it enters what are likely its final days. That does not mean that the threats posed by ISIS and similar jihadists are over however.

Adam Klein, “The Cyclical Politics of Counterterrorism,” The Washington Quarterly. June 15, 2017. Klein’s thoughtful piece illustrates the difficult and counterproductive cycle of counterterrorism efforts within the United States and democratic nations in general.

Nathan Freier, “Speed Kills – Enter an Age of Unbridled Hyperconnectivity,” Strategic Studies Institute. June 9, 2017. Freier examines the dangers of twenty-first century “hyperconnectivity,” suggesting that the threats include: increased ease of digital mobilization; an end to privacy, secrecy, and operational security; “penetration, disruption, exploitation, and destruction of data storage and transmission”; and an increased ability to manipulate perceptions and key decisions via “strategic employment of various forms of information.”

Brian Michael Jenkins, “Why Aren’t There More Terrorist Attacks Like the One in London?” RAND, June 7, 2017: In the wake of the London Bridge attack, Jenkins analyzes why there are not more terror attacks by jihadis in the West.

May 2017

Holly McKay, “ISIS threat in Afghanistan shows no end in sight,” Fox News, May 31, 2017: McKay reports on the growing presence and activities of ISIS-K (ISIS-Khorasan) in Afghanistan.

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “Policymakers must prepare for new ISIS threats in the future,” The Hill, May 27, 2017: Byers and Mooney argue that, while ISIS will eventually be physically defeated in Syria and Iraq, the organization will be almost impossible to completely eradicate, and will evolve after its physical destruction. The group will also serve as a model for future jihadist organizations.

Ben Connable, Natasha Lander, and Kimberly Jackson, “Beating the Islamic State: Selecting a New Strategy for Iraq and Syria,” RAND, May 2017: This RAND report assesses the current U.S. strategy for defeating the Islamic State and presents a series of options for a new strategy, ultimately recommending “a long-term strategy that seeks to address the root causes of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, reconciling the disenfranchised Sunni Arab populations with their governments, and thereby removing the conditions that allowed IS to emerge and thrive.”

Alice Marwick and Becca Lewis, “The Online Radicalization We’re Not Talking About,” NYMag, May 18, 2017: Marwick and Lewis take a brief look at online radicalization by far right groups such as white supremacists, white nationalists, the alt-right, and men’s rights activists. The authors identify common practices for far right radicalization and examples of success stories – where their propaganda makes its way into the main stream media. Far right terminology is also explained.

Hal Brands and Peter Feaver, “Was the Rise of ISIS Inevitable?Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 54:3 (June-July 2017): 7-54: Brands and Feaver undertake a scenario-based analysis of the rise of ISIS, concluding that the rise of ISIS was an avertable tragedy, though alternative policies that prevented its rise would have entailed undesirable costs and difficulties or would have produced only moderately better results.

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “Winning the Cyberwar Against ISIS: Why the West Should Rethink Its Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, May 5, 2017: Byers and Mooney discuss the role of theater in terrorism since before ISIS. They examine the current efforts of governments and NGOs to fight ISIS within the cyber domain and they propose a plan to create “cyber cells” capable of adapting to ISIS’s online efforts and even reaching potential recruits before ISIS can.

Newly declassified FOIA document discusses 2016 Obama order to fight ISIS in cyberspace, George Washington University’s National Security Archive, May 5, 2017: Provides some interesting insights on the Obama administration’s efforts to fight the Islamic State in cyberspace.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Nick Kaderbhai, “Research Perspectives on Online Radicalisation: A Literature Review, 2006-2016,” International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, May 3, 2017: A very thorough review of the literature. Meleagrou-Hitchens and Kaderbhai note that their review “seeks to recalibrate our understanding of online radicalisation, how it is conceptualised within the literature and the extent to which the policy debate has advanced in response to technological and legal developments.” They find that, despite a great deal of research on the topic in the last decade, we still do not understand how online radicalization works, and have even fewer ideas of how to counter it.

April 2017

Cody Roche, “Factions Fighting in the Syrian Civil War,” bellingcat, April 29, 2017: Roche outlines the various factions engaged in the current conflict in Syria.

Brandon Whitehead, “After ISIL: The Conflict Following the War,” Small Wars Journal, April 22, 2017: Whitehead provides some interesting discussion of what might happen after the Islamic State is defeated in the Levant.

Ian Tunnicliffe and Steve Tatham, “Social Media-The Vital Ground: Can We Hold It?,” Strategic Studies Institute monograph, April 21, 2017: Tunnicliffe and Tatham explore the implications of social media for military organizations and other organizations engaged in countering violent extremism in cyberspace.

Buddhika B. Jayamaha, Kevin Petit, and Will Reno, “Iraq’s Path to State FailureSmall Wars Journal, April 21, 2017: Interesting discussion of the current fragmentation of Iraq, focusing on the breakdown in central governance and turmoil in civil society amidst the current violence.

Rikar Hussein and Ahed Al Hendi, “Might IS, al-Qaida Team Up in Iraq?” Voice of America, April 20, 2017: Speculation about a possible future merger between the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

CJ Werleman, “How the ‘War on Drugs’ sabotages the ‘War on Terror’,” Middle East Eye, April 11, 2017: CJ Werleman identifies connections between radical, Islamic terrorist groups and the drug trade, citing the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

March 2017

Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney, “ISIS is winning the cyber war. Here’s how to stop it,” The Hill, March 21, 2017: Byers and Mooney argue for a much stronger effort to counter online jihadism than is currently being undertaken and make specific suggestions for a new cyber-strategy.

Jeremy M. Sharp, “Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention,” Congressional Research Service, March 21, 2017: A report on the ongoing civil war in Yemen and U.S. policy responses.

Cheryl Phillips, “Countering the Daesh Narrative,” Small Wars Journal, March 18, 2017: Cheryl Phillips walks readers through the idea of a narrative then drills into what ISIS’s core narrative is comprised of. She emphasizes the need for a diverse “marketplace of ideas” that susceptible Muslims can choose from besides extremism. Phillips examines the best voices for these alternative narratives, the optimal targets, and potential avenues of dissemination.

Hal Brands and Peter Feaver, “After ISIS: U.S. Political-Military Strategy in the Global War on Terror,” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, March 10, 2017: Brands and Feaver assess the status of the greater Middle East after the presumed eventual collapse of ISIS, assessing U.S. options post-ISIS, and ultimately conclude “that an enhanced version of the approach that the Obama administration took to defeating ISIS represents the best strategy for waging a dangerous conflict that is likely to endure for many years.”

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Seamus Hughes, “The Threat to the United States from the Islamic State’s Virtual Entrepreneurs,” Combating Terrorism Center, March 9, 2017: Meleagrou-Hitchens and Hughes look at ISIS’s use of the internet in its attacks abroad. From the abstract, “The increased use of social media, often paired with applications that offer the option of encrypted messaging, has enabled members of groups like the Islamic State to make direct and lasting contact with radicalized Americans. In some cases, these individuals direct terror plots, and in others, they provide encouragement and motivation for attacks.”

Graeme Wood, “The American Climbing the Ranks of ISIS,” The Atlantic, March 2017: A fascinating profile of an American convert to Islam who has gone on to join the Islamic State in Syria, based on an excerpt from Wood’s new book, The Way of the Strangers: Encounters With the Islamic State.

February 2017

Charlie Winter, “Media Jihad: The Islamic State’s Doctrine for Information Warfare,” The International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, February 2017: Charlie Winter translates quotations from “Media Operative, You are a Mujahid, Too,” ISIS’s guidebook for its online propagandists. The accompanying analysis offers a greater understanding of ISIS’s online media strategy and patterns.

Anthony H. Cordesman, “Tracking the Trends and Numbers: Islam, Terrorism, Stability, and Conflict in the Middle East,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 15, 2017: Anthony Cordesman uses statistics and trends to analyze seven key points: there is instability and unrest in the MENA region; Islam is rapidly expanding but most Muslims are not extremists; secularism also affects MENA’s stability; Iran also affects MENA’s stability; the international focus on ISIS is out of proportion to their potential impact as compares to other terrorist groups’ potential impact; there is no clash between Western/Islamic civilizations, there is a clash between Islamic civilizations; the West can not isolate itself from Muslims but rather must depend on MENA’s Islamic governments to defeat Islamic extremism.

Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen and Karin Ingrid Castro Møller, “Why counter-narratives are not the best responses to terrorist propaganda: Challenges, risks and alternatives,” Danish Institute for International Studies, February 10, 2017: Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen and Karin Ingrid Castro Møller explore “the challenges related to using counter-propaganda that engage directly and confrontationally with a particular ideology within the Danish preventive framework in particular and in CVE strategies in general.” They question the reactive nature of counter-narratives and give recommendations for alternative narratives.

Paul Kamolnick, The Al-Qaeda Organization and the Islamic State Organization: History, Doctrine, Modus Operandi, and U.S. Policy to Degrade and Defeat Terrorism Conducted in the Name of Sunni Islam, Strategic Studies Institute, February 6, 2017: A book-length monograph on the ideology and operations of the two groups, as well as a series of policy recommendations.

Christopher M. Blanchard and Carla E. Humud, “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, February 2, 2017: A report on the Islamic State, a history of U.S. policy, current efforts, and strategic options for the future.

January 2017

Joseph Bernstein, “A Thriving Chat Startup Braces for the Alt-Right,” Buzzfeed News, January 23, 2017: Joseph Bernstein examines the online chat forum Discord. Originally intended for online gamers, the alt-right has taken to using the platform for its own purposes.

December 2016

Thomas R. Mockaitis, “The COIN Conundrum: The Future of Counterinsurgency and U.S. Land Power,” Strategic Studies Institute, December 14, 2016: Monograph that reviews the current counterinsurgency debate and analyzes U.S. military force structure that has increasingly been positioned to engage in counterinsurgency operations.

November 2016

Anthony H. Cordesman, “The Uncertain Metrics of War Against ISIS,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 21, 2016: Anthony Cordesman compares “the key metrics available on the “wars” in Iraq and Syria that help to illustrate both the patterns in the conflict and some of the key uncertainties-or “fog of war”-that shape efforts to portray and to understand it.”

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), “Global Terrorism Index 2016: Measuring and Understanding the Impact of Terrorism,” November 2016: A lengthy, quantitatively-based report on the effects of terrorism around the world in 2016.

October 2016

Georgetown University, Center for Security Studies, National Security Critical Issues Task Force, “Countering Violent Extremism: Applying the Public Health Model,” October 2016: Countering Violent Extremism is an important–yet vague–piece of national security policy in America. Georgetown’s National Security Critical Issues Task Force works to apply the Public Heath Model and divide CVE prevention efforts into primary, secondary, and tertiary classifications. The Task Force outlines how this approach would help the U.S. and its allies to “define the CVE mission, assign responsibilities for its implementation, and engage effectively in combined action for its execution.”

June 2016

The U.S. State Department, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2015,” June 2016: The most recent State Department report on the status of terrorism around the world, which replaces the Patterns of Global Terrorism annual reports.

May 2016

Sarah Chayes, “Corruption and Terrorism: The Causal Link,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 12, 2016: Chayes explains the link between terrorism and corruption. She draws upon extensive fieldwork experiences and historic examples of corruption leading to extremism in religion and a desire for retribution. Chayes notes ways that the West could help more and ways that the West currently makes the problem of corruption (and therefore extremism/terrorism) worse.

December 2015

Peter Pomerantsev, “Brave New War,” The Atlantic, December 29, 2015: Pomerantsev provides a fascinating overview of the increasingly ambiguous forms of warfare that states and non-state actors may engage in.

March 2015

Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015: Wood’s excellent piece on the ideology that underlays the Islamic State, based on a series of interviews with experts and jihadis around the world, has garnered a tremendous amount of attention.