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December 2018

Mohammed Ezz, “Egypt Kills 40 Suspected Militants After Deadly Bombing of Tour Bus,” The New York Times, December 29, 2018. Forty militants were killed by Egyptian security forces in raids following the bombing of a tour bus at the pyramids of Giza that resulted in the death of three Vietnamese tourists and an Egyptian guide. Their deaths highlight both the continued presence of terrorism in Egypt that poses a threat to the state’s tourism industry and also the ongoing concerns that Egypt’s security forces are carrying out extrajudicial killings against suspected militants.

Steven A. Cook, “Turkey Is Lying About Fighting ISIS,” Foreign Policy, December 28, 2018. In an amendment to his initial reasoning for withdrawing from Turkey, President Trump recently revealed that Turkey will continue the work of the U.S. troops and YPG forces in Syria, helping to ensure that ISIS does not return in the region. However, American and Turkish policy aims remain divided, and it is unlikely that Turkey will prove any more willing a partner against ISIS or in the efforts to counter Iranian influence than it has in the past.

Idrees Ali, Lesley Wroughton, and Jonathan Landay, “Exclusive: U.S. commanders recommend letting Kurdish fighters in Syria keep weapons,” Reuters, December 28, 2018. Following President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw troops from Syria due to the defeat of ISIS, U.S. commanders are recommending that the Kurdish forces that have been integral in the fight against ISIS keep the weapons supplied by the United States because “the fight isn’t over.” Although the majority of ISIS’ strongholds in Syria and Iraq have been retaken, the group still holds pockets in the country that could ultimately serve as areas from which the group regain influence.

Caleb Weiss, “JNIM claims ambush in Burkina Faso,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 28, 2018. In a deadly, multi-faceted attack on Burkinabe forces in northern Burkina Faso on December 27th, al-Qaeda’s branch in West Africa and the Sahel (JNIM) killed 10 and wounded 3 others. The attack is the latest of a series of indications that jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has grown exponentially in the past few years and continues to expand throughout the African nation.

Jessica Donati, “President Trump’s Envoy in War Against Islamic State Resigns,” The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2018. In the latest of several high-level resignations this week, Brett McGurk, the U.S.’s top envoy in the war against the Islamic State, has resigned indicating that the administration would be better served by someone whose views aligned more closely with that of President Trump. This heightens the uncertainty surrounding troop engagement in Afghanistan and Syria and helps highlight the discontent among top officials in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal announcements.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, “Pentagon Considers Using Special Operations Forces to Continue Mission in Syria,” The New York Times, December 21, 2018. Following President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw troops from Syria, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the United States to remain in the region and prepared to operate against the ongoing threat posed by ISIS. Special Forces deployed to Iraq could be used to carry out specific cross-border raids even as traditional forces are withdrawn.

Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, “Analysis: The costs of withdrawal from Afghanistan,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 21, 2018. The Long War Journal has regularly indicated its discontent with the more than seventeen-year long war in Afghanistan, however, it warns that quick withdrawal is likely to result in an even more alarming scenario. The Taliban will have less reason to negotiate, al-Qaeda will more open about its heavy footprint in Afghanistan, and ISIS will no longer fear U.S. intervention when it attacks Afghani cities and towns.

Warren P. Strobel, “Europe Faces Continuing Terror Threat, While Concerns in U.S. Ebb, Study Finds,” The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2018. Despite the shift in U.S. focus away from terrorism towards inter-state competition, European officials still remain occupied with the threat of terrorism in the EU. Although terror attacks have declined slightly in 2018, perhaps due to the dissolution of ISIS’ caliphate in Iraq and Syria, Europe still faces threats from “returning foreign fighters, online radicalization, and potentially from convicted terrorists whose prison terms are ending.”

 AFP, “Car bomb kills 8 people in Syria’s Afrin: monitor,” Al-Monitor, December 16, 2018. A car bomb was detonated near pro-Turkish forces in Afrin, which was taken from U.S.-backed Kurdish forces earlier this year. Turkey continues to refer to Kurdish forces in the region as terrorists, condemning U.S. support for the Kurds. However, YPG and SDF forces have been the cornerstone of America’s fight against ISIS in the region, complicating U.S. policy, which appears torn between its NATO-ally and its mission to defeat terrorism in Syria.


Shlomi Eldar, “Hamas’ fingerprints all over wave of terror in West Bank,” Al-Monitor, December 14, 2018. Despite last month’s relative calm, Gaza and the West Bank have seen a recent uptick in violent attacks, presumably supported by Hamas’ leadership in Turkey and Lebanon. Hamas is looking to move its attacks from Gaza into the West Bank, leaving it up to the IDF to improve and maintain the security situation in a region that appears to be constantly on the brink of violent uprising.

Joe Gould, “US Africa strategy hinges on local forces stepping up as Pentagon ramps down: Bolton,” Defense News, December 14, 2018. The United States will downsize its forces in Africa by ten percent in 2019, shifting its Africa strategy to focus on African self-reliance rather than entrusting the region’s security to foreign forces. This is likely related to recent information indicating that the United States would not have the resources to both remain committed to all of its current missions and also meet Russia or China in a future conflict.  

Thomas H. Johnson and Larry P. Goodson, “Political Legitimacy: Why We Are Failing in Afghanistan,” Strategy Bridge, December 13, 2018. Johnson and Goodman argue that the current lack of political legitimacy in Afghanistan is largely the result of the ten-year Soviet-Afghan war and the reason that the nation has been unable to establish a stable government. An anti-corruption campaign, coupled with security institutions that rise above factional divides and relief from foreign meddling could help to create a semblance of political legitimacy and resultant political stability in Afghanistan.

Simon Pratt, “US killing by drone: continuity and escalation,” the interpreter, December 11, 2018. An examination of the increase in drone use over the past three presidential administrations. From their beginnings at the CIA, drone use has now transformed to include surveillance and support for ground troops in addition to their original purpose of targeting and killing specific insurgent and terrorist leaders.

Julian Pecquet, “Intel: How Yemen talks may deepen US-EU divide over Iran,” Al-Monitor, December 11, 2018. The United States and the European Union are already at odds of policies towards Iran as the United States has pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and the EU has kept the deal as a linchpin of its Iranian policies. The inclusion of Iran in Yemen peace talks despite urging against its inclusion by the Trump administration could sharpen the divide between the United States and the EU.

Associated Press, “Iran Confirms Missile Test That Angered U.S.,” RealClear Defense, December 11, 2018. Despite condemnation by the United States, Tehran has confirmed a recent ballistic missile test. The United States is using the test urge European countries to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which did not prohibit such tests. 

Thomas Joscelyn, “Ohio man allegedly inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, Islamic State,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 11, 2018. Ohio-born Damon Joseph was recently arrested for planning an attack on a synagogue in Toledo. Reports of court filings reveal that Joseph had developed support for ISIS via internet engagement and had reportedly produced his own online content espousing the beliefs of the terror group. Although Joseph’s case is still pending, the threat posed by the online presence of ISIS and other terror groups cannot be underestimated, as it continues to inspire foreign nationals to wage jihad in their home countries. 

 Antonia Ward, “ISIS’ Use of Social Media Still Poses a Threat to Stability in the Middle East and Africa,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, December 10, 2018. Despite suffering losses this year, ISIS has capitalized on the enormous increase in cellphone, internet, and social media users in areas in which it hopes to recruit followers and develop an influential presence. The increase in media users gives terror organizations in general a new base from which to draw support, and, by using social media to project their legitimacy and highlight the benefits they bring to areas under their control, groups like AQAP, ISIS, and al-Shabaab pose a potent threat to stability in the Middle East and Africa.

Rob Matheson, “Iraq’s Yazidis ‘forgotten by world’ since ISIL attacks,” Al Jazeera, December 10, 2018. Although the ISIS caliphate has largely been destroyed in Iraq and Syria, many people remain displaced after the group’s attacks and attempts at genocide. The majority of the world’s Yazidi population lives in camps in Northern Iraq, attempting to carry on with lives that were destroyed by the terror organization. It is important that the world remember their plight, as often abandoned and disenfranchised youth from refugee camps often become prime recruits for terror groups.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Bassam Mroue, “After defeat in Iraq, ISIS fights on in last enclave in Syria,” Military Times, December 9, 2018. Although most of the world believes ISIS to be eradicated, the group has hung on to territory in Syria, making a last bid against the SDF fighters in the region. Further, there is concern that ISIS sleeper cells on the Iraq border will create a new surge against the Iraqi government. However, the largest problem remains that most of the ISIS militants are desperate and willing to participate in suicide missions, making their ultimate defeat a slow and casualty-ridden process.

Natalie Andrews, “Senate to Vote on Withdrawing U.S. Support to Saudis in Yemen War,” The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2018. In the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month, the Senate looks to vote on a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Critics argue that “empowering Iran is not the way to punish the Crown Prince,” indicating that Iran would benefit from the U.S. withdrawing from the conflict.

Brian D’Haeseleer, “Are we mishandling the war on terror in Africa?The Washington Post, December 7, 2018. This article examines U.S. involvement in Africa as early as the 1990s, arguing that post-9/11, the United States has found itself in an ongoing conflict against global terror with no end in sight. Ultimately, it questions whether U.S. military involvement in the region is preventing the spread of terror or causing it to worsen.

Sirwan Kajjo, “Study: Terrorism Deaths Declining Globally,” Voice of America, December 7, 2018. Global terrorism related deaths decreased by twenty-seven percent in 2017, marking the third year that the number of deaths caused by terrorism has declined. However, while the removal of IS from Iraq and Syria has resulted in a decline in deaths in the region, as many as 20-30,000 militants could still be present in Iraq. Further, Afghanistan has seen a 151% increase in battle-related deaths, demonstrating that the fight against the Taliban remains heavy in casualties and light in actual progress.

Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed, “Afghan Election Dispute Brews as U.S. Pushes for Peace Talks,” The New York Times, December 6, 2018. An election complaints agency recently invalidated 1.2 million votes cast in Kabul during Afghanistan’s October parliamentary elections. The Independent Election Commission has not accepted the ruling, arguing that it invalidates the votes of many Afghans who faced great personal risk to cast their vote in October. The ongoing political instability continues to hamper global efforts to negotiate peace between Afghanistan and the Taliban.

Husain Haqqani, “Afghanistan’s Taliban Is in It to Win It,” Foreign Policy, December 5, 2018. Despite pressure by the United States on Pakistan and peace talks with the Taliban, Haqqani warns the United States against accepting either Pakistan or the Taliban’s promises at face value. Reminding his readers that the Taliban’s Islamist fight against the West is focused on a long game, Haqqani uses history to indicate that premature and hasty withdraw from the region could result in a safe haven similar to those that gave rise to al-Qaeda and ISIS in the past.

Liz Sly, “In the Middle East, Russia is back,” The Washington Post, December 5, 2018. Russia appears to be making inroads with many of the United States’ longtime allies, including Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Iraq. In several of these cases, Russia has provided weapons to the nations after the United States has refused weapons sales in an attempt to pressure policy decisions. Unfortunately, it appears that Russia’s influence is expanding, and its arms sales could potentially result in an influx of weaponry in the Middle East that in the past has sometimes coincided with the weaponization of terror organizations.

Indrees Ali, “Afghan security forces’ deaths unsustainable: U.S. military official,” Reuters, December 4, 2018. Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, the Pentagon’s most recent selection for the next commander of U.S. Central Command, believes that Afghan security forces will be unable to sustain the levels of casualties they are currently experiencing in their fight against the Taliban. Although the United States has approached Pakistan about helping to bring the Taliban into negotiations, it appears that Pakistan is unwilling to exert the full extent of its influence over the group.

Bill Roggio, “US strikes target al Qaeda in Libya, Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 4, 2018. The United States continues to support African governments as it helps to disrupt terror organizations in the region. This week, two strikes appear to have killed 20 fighters, but the United States and regional governments seem to be unable to deal a devastating blow to any of the al-Qaeda or ISIS affiliates in Libya, Somalia, or Yemen.

Christine Bang-Andersen, “Radicalization in Central Asia: A Thorny and Enduring Problem,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, December 4, 2018. Central Asia has become a hotbed for terror recruitment, providing more foreign fighters to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria than the Middle East. Although several globally-backed initiative have been instated in an effort to reduce the ease with which militants are recruited from the regions, systemic problems of corruption, underemployment, and ethnically-based inequality and discrimination will continue to contribute to the creation of easy targets for apt radical recruiters.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban shadow governor for Helmand killed in US airstrike,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 2, 2018. Although a U.S. airstrike killed Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund in an airstrike on December 1, the Taliban has successfully replaced other senior leaders who have either been killed or died of natural causes. Therefore, it is unlikely that the loss of Manan will result in any significant shift of control in the Helmand province.

November 2018

Raed Fares: Syria radio host shot dead in Idlib,” BBC News, November 24, 2018. Peaceful Syrian activist and radio host, Raed Fares was shot and killed Kafranbel on November 23rd. Fares had been targeted several times in the past by both militants and pro-Assad forces as he failed to adhere to their demands that the show stop playing music and remove its female broadcasters. His death is a reminder that many Syrian citizens support the ultimate defeat of the Assad government, despite the devastation being caused by the ongoing war.

Ayaz Gul, “Pakistan Crackdown Arrests Islamic Cleric, Hundreds of Followers,” Voice of America, November 24, 2018. The recent arrest of right-wing Tehreek-i-Labbaik party leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, following the party’s continued calls for protests against the government’s decision to release Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, from her death sentence. The government’s crackdown reveals the ongoing conflict between the current government’s efforts to move to a more moderate position and the country’s ultra-conservatives, an issue that has plagued the country for decades. 

Iran’s Rohani Urges Muslims to Unite Against U.S.,” RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty, November 24, 2018. Iranian President Hassan Rohani recently declared that “submitting to the West headed by America would be treason to our religion” at an annual Islamic Unity conference. Rohani’s comments suggest that Iran continues to foment opposition to U.S. involvement in the region, while also creating opposition to its regional opponents, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Kathryn Long, “Getting the Most Out of Drones Requires Coherent Policy,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, November 23, 2018. Although drones are effective, economical, and theoretically prevent civilian casualties, the United States should be certain to employ a coherent policy that governs drone targets in order to ensure that the strikes do not result in negative blowback. If the drone strike policy fails to effectively limit civilian casualties, it runs the risk of creating civilian animosity towards the United States that can be capitalized on by extremists in the region.

Bill Roggio, “AFRICOM launches 2 more strikes against Shabaab in central Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 22, 2018. AFRICOM has conducted five strikes against the al-Qaeda branch al-Shabaab in the past four days, reporting 50 Shabaab deaths as a result of the strikes. AFRICOM appears to have identified Shabaab activity in Mudug as a threat and is striking the area heavily in an attempt to mitigate the danger posed by the terror group.

Mohammed Ayoob, “The United States and Pakistan: A Marriage Made in Hell,” The National Interest, November 21, 2018. A brief examination of the history of U.S.-Pakistani relations reveals that the alliance has always stood on a tenuous foundation. Ayoob indicates that the latest verbal spat between President Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan may be the final straw between a historically divergent pair of allies. 

Mohammed Habibzada, “Afghanistan to Step up Operations Against Militants,” Voice of America, November 21, 2018. Following a suicide attack on a convention of religious scholars on November 20th and the recent release of the number of Afghani security deaths since 2015, the Afghan government has decided to increase offensive operations against the Taliban. The decision has received mixed responses, but it appears that a military solution may provide temporary success against that Taliban that should be coupled with democratic efforts to achieve peace.

Kevin Truitte, “Think Global, Act Local? Tensions between Regional and International Objectives in the Jihadist Movement,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, November 21, 2018. Truitte examines the ongoing tension between local jihadi objectives and the global-scale objectives of organizations like al-Qaeda. Although al-Qaeda has supported regional jihads in the past, its international concerns outweigh its local focus, which has resulted in rifts between AQ Central and some of its regional branches.  

Ali Mamouri, “With rising US pressure, Iran worries about losing ground in Iraq,” Al-Monitor, November 20, 2018. Although Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Iran’s president and Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, the exchanges between the two nations do not appear to have resulted in any significant action by Iraq to meet Iranian requests. In contrast, it appears that Iraq intends to pursue actions intended to meet American demands. Further, Iran appears to be losing popular traction in Iraq, as many of the Iraqi Shiites who previously supported or felt indifferent about Iranian influence now view the Islamic Republic negatively.

Seth G. Jones, Charles Vallee and Danika Newlee, “The Evolution of the Salafi-Jihadist Threat,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 20, 2018. The report examines Salafi-Jihadism from 1980-today, focusing on regions with the highest number of fighters, including Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, and Somalia. Although the numbers are slightly down from 2016, the report concludes that while the United States does need to focus attention on legitimate threats like Iran and Russia, it would be a mistake to move too many resources too quickly away from the fight against terrorism.

Daniel Byman, “Was Syria Different? Anticipating the Next Islamic State,” Lawfare, November 20, 2018. Although there is concern that the conditions caused by the Syrian civil war may result in the rise of another terror organization like the Islamic State, Byman argues that the early legitimacy of the Syrian rebels and the lack of intervention by Western powers make the conflict unlikely to generate large-scale Muslim extremism.

Philip Issa, “Iraq officials say four killed in bombing in western Mosul,” Stars and Stripes, November 15, 2018. A car bomb detonated outside a restaurant in west Mosul killed four and wounded nine others in the city’s first deadly bombing since its recapture from ISIS last year. The bombing serves as a reminder that although ISIS has lost territory, its militants remain active across the region.

Kathy Gannon, “After 17 years, many Afghans blame US for unending war,” Military Times, November 14, 2018. Conspiracy theories surrounding the American presence in Afghanistan have contributed to low morale among Afghan forces and anti-American sentiment among the Afghan population. Questions have been raised concerning the American mission in the region and whether the U.S. ever intended to leave the nation that provides it with a way to more closely monitor Iran, Russia, and China.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Coalition, Iraqi forces target Islamic State leaders and fighters,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 14, 2018. Joscelyn examines ISIS’ self-reported “Harvest of the Soldiers” video series, ultimately concluding that, despite a lack of third party reporting, the number of operations and casualties listed by the group are likely close to accurate. The “Harvest of the Soliders” video series claims 2,770 deaths worldwide within a six-week timeframe, with most casualties occurring close to its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. These self-claimed reports highlight the continued threat posed by the group despite its significant territorial losses.

Caleb Weiss, “JNIM claims suicide bombing in Northern Mali,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 14, 2018. In its first attack since July, JNIM claimed a suicide bombing in the Malian city of Gao that was intended to target the Structural Engineering and Mine Dismantling headquarters. Although Malian officials reported that all the people killed in the attack were Malian, JNIM claimed that the attack was intended to target a base of “Crusader invaders” from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.

Maggie Michael and Maad al-Zikry, “Hidden toll of US drone strikes in Yemen: Nearly a third of deaths are civilians, not al-Qaida,” Military Times, November 14, 2018. Although the Trump administration has carried almost as many drone strikes in two years and the Obama administration did in eight years, it is unclear how many of the drone-related deaths have been militants rather than civilians. The article examines the difficulty in assessing the death toll and the sometimes ambiguous or mistaken U.S. targeting process.

Leo Shane III, “Price tag of the ‘war on terror’ will top $6 trillion soon,” Military Times, November 14, 2018. A report by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University released a report indicating that the cost of the ‘war on terror’ will soon reach $6 trillion and will likely exceed $7 trillion if continued into the 2020s. In contrast to the Defense Department that estimates costs based only on direct military spending, this report takes into account increases in Homeland Security and VA spending.

Bill Roggio, “US Treasury adds Qods Force, Hezbollah officials to list of global terrorists,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 13, 2018. In its latest effort to curb the finances of global terrorist organizations, the US Treasury designated four Qods Force and Hezbollah officials operating in Iraq as terrorists. However, the Treasury failed to acknowledge the significance of the fact that one of the officials it designated, Secretary General of the Imam Ali Battalions Kata’ib Imam Ali, is a key leader in Iraq’s PMF and reports directly to Iraq’s Prime Minister.

Bryant Harris, “Congress seeks more control over North Africa counterterror program,” Al-Monitor, November 13, 2018. Perhaps in response to anxiety about the potential threat posed by ISIS fighters returning to their native countries in Africa, Congress has proposed a bill that would formally institutionalize the North Africa counterterror program. This would allow Congress more oversight over the program, but also help to focus attention on a counterterror program that has been consistently overlooked by policymakers in the past few years.

Ryan Browne, “US-backed offensive against ISIS to resume after pause,” CNN Politics, November 12, 2018. Although tensions between the U.S.-backed SDF and Turkish troops recently resulted in a pause in anti-ISIS operations in Syria, diplomatic efforts between Ankara and Washington, as well as by the SDF, have eased some of these tensions. In addition to joint patrols by U.S. and Turkish troops, the U.S.-backed SDF have now restarted operations against ISIS in the region.

Matthew Pennington, “Afghan leader tells US audience that Taliban not winning the war,” Associated Press, November 12, 2018. Although the Afghan government controls only 55 percent of Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently told a U.S. audience the Taliban was not winning the war and that the government remained committed to creating a negotiated peace with the Taliban. In his speech, Ghani revealed that as U.S. fatalities in the region have declined, Afghan deaths have increased, the result of the shift in the increased role of Afghans in combat operations.

J.P. Lawrence, “Suicide bomber kills six at protest demanding better security against Taliban,” Stars and Stripes, November 12, 2018. A suicide attack claimed by ISIS in Afghanistan (ISIS-Khorasan) killed six at a Kabul protest against increasing insecurity in Afghanistan, the result of the NATO-led coalition’s transition from a combat mission to a training mission.

Jodi Brignola, “The Fatal Flaws in the Trump Administration’s Counterterrorism Strategy,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, November 10, 2018. The most recent National Strategy for Counterterrorism reveals a disproportionate level of focus on Islamic terrorism and fails to address the threat of far-right and anti-Semitic domestic terrorism in the United States.

 Mohamed Olad Hassan, “Death Toll in Mogadishu Blasts Climbs to 52,” Voice of America, November 10, 2018. Al-Shabab claimed a series of car bombs and shooting in Mogadishu that killed 52 and injured as many as 106 others. The al-Qaeda branch in East Africa remains active in the region, although recently, it appears that there have been less frequent attacks in the city.

Ahmed Twaij, “Northern Iraq May Be Free, but the South Is Seething,” Foreign Policy, November 9, 2018. With the majority of international attention focused on Iraq’s north, its southern city of Basra is suffering the effects of neglect with the rise of violent protests and increased poverty. Importantly, many of the southern Iraqi Shi’ites than participated in the efforts against ISIS have returned home to the South to face destitution. Just as volunteers in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union returned home to foment protest and incite violence in the face of joblessness and lack of opportunity, these veterans could similarly affect the relative stability enjoyed in Basra.  

General James L. Jones, “Support Marines’ Families, Not Iran’s Terror-Sponsors,” Atlantic Council, November 9, 2018. The Trump administration has the opportunity to back the lawsuit against Iran for its support of the 1983 Hezbollah attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Currently, $1.67 billion in Iranian assets are in question, and it is important that the administration side with the families of the Marines rather than with the largest global exporter of international terrorism. 

Bill Roggio, “At Moscow conference, Taliban refers to itself as the ‘Islamic Emirate’ 61 times,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 9, 2018. By allowing the Taliban to participate in the Moscow conference, the United States and its allies provided the terror organization with an international platform from which to promote itself as the rightful political leaders of Afghanistan. Although women’s rights and humanitarian issues were mentioned, the group continues to terrorize women and minorities in areas under its control. Rhetoric arguing otherwise is merely a delusional attempt to justify a U.S. withdrawal from the region.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Islamic State claimed its ‘fighter’ carried out stabbings in Melbourne,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 9, 2018. Islamic State claimed the latest crude terror attack against ‘nationals of coalition countries’ that resulted in the death of one and the wounding of two others. Although the group has not provided details, the attack indicated that despite the group’s territorial losses, it continues to inspire individuals to carry out attacks in Western and Western-affiliated nations.

Carla Babb, “US, Turkey Conduct Second Joint Patrol in Manbij,” Voice of America, November 8, 2018. Despite ongoing conflict between Turkey and U.S.-backed SDF forces in Syria, the United States and Turkey conducted its second joint patrol in northern Syria, intended to support “long-term security in Manbij.”

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “Yemen strikes wane, but AQAP still poses ‘a significant threat,’” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 7, 2018. Although U.S. strikes against AQAP have decreased significantly since last year, al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen remains an active force in the region. Additionally, the sometimes unspoken alliance between AQAP and Saudi-led coalition forces against the Iranian-backed Houthis in the region further complicates U.S. policy in the region.

Julie Turkewitz, “Brent Taylor, Utah Mayor Killed in Afghanistan, Was on Fourth Deployment,” The New York Times, November 4, 2018. The death of Brent Taylor, a major in the Utah National Guard, by a suspected insider attack in Afghanistan serves as a reminder of the shifting threat landscape facing American military personnel in Afghanistan. Because the mission has largely shifted to training Afghan troops, U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan are largely older and more experienced. In addition to the increase in the average age of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, deaths have largely shifted from direct combat fatalities to insider attacks by the same Afghan troops Americans are supposed to be training.

IS attack kills 12 US-backed fighers in east Syria: monitor,” Agence France-Presse, November 4, 2018. IS carried out a suicide bombing against US-backed SDF forces in Deir Ezzor, killing 12 and reminding regional actors that its organization remains relevant in turbulent areas of Syria.

Michael Hostage and Geoffrey Corn, “Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges,” RealClear Defense, November 3, 2018. Hezbollah’s increasing battlefield competency, missile arsenal, and support from Iran will allow the terror group to launch a more successful offensive against its southern neighbor than it did in 2006. However, Hostage and Corn argue that Hezbollah will utilize an information campaign to delegitimize Israel and the IDF, winning regional and global support that will ultimately prove a more difficult obstacle than its new military capabilities.

Haq Nawez Khan and Pamela Constable, “After slaying of ‘father of Taliban’ in Pakistan, mourners underscore complex legacy,” The Washington Post, November 3, 2018. Mourners from a wide expanse of religious ideologies traveled from Afghanistan and Pakistan to mourn the death of Sunni cleric, Sumi ul-Haq, revealing his complicated and far-reaching influence in the region. The mourning of Sumi al-Haq brought an end to four days of protest in Pakistan against the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a peasant worker accused of blasphemy.

J.P. Lawrence, “Taliban vs. Taliban clash in Afghanistan’s west leaves 40 dead,” Stars and Stripes, November 2, 2018. A recent clash between Taliban factions in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat, leaving 40 militants dead. The clash re-emphasizes the depth of factionalism within the state and serves as a reminder that part of the difficulty in creating a peace process in Afghanistan is its history of self-serving tribalism.

Bill Roggio, “US military continues to spin a Taliban victory against Islamic State as its own,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 2, 2018. In July of this year, the Taliban routed ISIS fighters in the Darzab district of Jawzjan. In order to avoid capture by the Taliban, these ISIS fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces in the region. The United States has claimed this surrender as a victory for U.S. and Afghan forces against ISIS in the region, despite playing no active role in their defeat. Roggio argues that this demonstrates the United States’ desperation to claim success in a region where its efforts appear to be failing.

Brian O’Toole, “A Look at the Implications of Reimposed US Sanctions on Iran,” Atlantic Council, November 1, 2018. U.S. sanctions against Iran took effect November 5 as an effort by the Trump administration to pressure Iran about its ongoing support for terrorism. Eyes are on Iran’s reaction to the sanctions, and whether or not it will remain in the Iran nuclear deal with American withdrawal.

Clayton Thomas, “Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy: In Brief,” Congressional Research Service, November 1, 2018. A report prepared for members of Congress providing an overview of U.S. involvement in and policy on Afghanistan. The report also contains an ‘Outlook’ section that examines the future of the security situation in Afghanistan and U.S. involvement in achieving the state’s security.

Peace waves in East Africa,” The Christian Science Monitor, November 1, 2018. Ethiopia’s new prime minister has helped to transform the region in the six months since he took office. Dr. Abiy has introduced peaceful conflict resolution not only in Ethiopia, but also in South Sudan, helping to create a resolution that could bring an end to the nation’s long-standing civil war.

October 2018

Jim Garamone, “Mattis Shares Threat Pictures Behind New National Defense Strategy,” U.S. Department of Defense, October 31, 2018. In a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace, Defense Secretary James Mattis shared some of the thought process behind the designation of Russia and China as the United States’ greatest national security threats. Mattis revealed that officials examined national security threats from three different angles, including power, urgency and will. Within this context, violent extremism was ranked third on the list of security threats.

Natalie Johnson, “Experts Warn Against U.S. Withdrawal from Yemen Conflict Amid Saudi Criticism,” The Washington Free Beacon, October 29, 2018. Although the Trump administration has faced bipartisan criticism as a result of its continued support for the Saudi coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, experts warn that withdrawal would effectively cede victory to Iran in the region.

Hamas Fires 30 Rockets at Israel’s South; IDF Strikes 80 Targets in Gaza,” The Jerusalem Post, October 27, 2018. Hamas fired 30 rockets into Southern Israel and the IDF retaliated with 80 strikes against Hamas in Gaza. The ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel is often overshadowed by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda or ISIS, but it is important to recall that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has influenced terror attacks across the globe for more than three decades.

Bassem Mroue, “ISIS frees six hostages in exchange with Syrian government,” Stars and Stripes, October 20, 2018. In an exchange for the release of ISIS-linked women and children by the Syrian government, ISIS release six hostages from the July 25 raid of the Sweida province in Syria. The exchange comes as a result of a siege by the Syrian government on the desert area outside of Sweida, and possibly demonstrates willingness by ISIS to negotiate when in a more desperate state.

Afghanistan election: Multiple blasts reported at Kabul polling stations,” Deutsche Welle, October 20, 2018. The Taliban has followed through on its threats against Afghanistan’s first parliamentary election since 2010. More than 170 people have been reported wounded or killed at or around polling stations, and election stations have faced staff shortages due to Taliban threats of violence against election workers, missing biometric equipment, and overall disorganization.

Fatiha Belfakir, “Sudanese Official: We Are Not Sponsoring Terrorism,” Voice of America, October 19, 2018. Given the recent U.S. report indicating that Sudan has participated in counter-terror operations and actively worked to against terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, Sudanese diplomat, Waleed Basheer, recently argued that Sudan should be removed from the American list of state-sponsors of terrorism. However, give Sudan’s history supporting terrorism as recently as 2014 and the amount of work the state still needs to put in in order to prevent terrorism within its borders, others argue that keeping Sudan on the list gives the U.S. leverage in pressing these concerns.

Tamara Coffman Whittes, “On Jamal Khashoggi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia,” Brookings, October 19, 2018. Although the details surrounding Khashoggi’s death are still unclear, Whittes argues that despite his youthful (and possibly adulthood) links to the Muslim Brotherhood, if Khashoggi was killed in an effort to limit his freedom of speech, all champions of free speech, regardless of political affiliation, should be actively concerned about this act of repression.

Krystel Von Kumberg, “The False Genealogy of Terrorism: How Islamic Extremists and Their Critics Misconstrue the Roots of Jihadist Ideology,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, October 19, 2018. Although modern terrorists gain inspiration from past Islamic leaders, it is important to identify and highlight the contradictions between modern terrorist ideology and the rhetoric and ideologies espoused by historical Islamist thinkers. By emphasizing the illegitimate nature of the extremist interpretation of leading thinkers like ‘Abd al-Halim Ibn Taymiyya, counterterror policies may be able to better discredit modern jihadists.

Thomas Joscelyn, “US continues to expose Islamic State’s global financial network,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 19, 2018. In the latest of the U.S. Treasury’s crackdowns on Islamic State’s financial network, the Treasury has designated Afaq Dubai, “a money services business,” as an Iraqi-based business that moves money for the terror organization. In recent months, the U.S. Treasury has designated and sanctioned individuals and MSBs from the Middle East to the Caribbean involved in helping to finance ISIS’ operations.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban attacks meeting attended by General Mills, kills Kandahar police chief,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 18, 2018. The Taliban infiltrated a meeting with the United States’ top military commander in Afghanistan, resulting in the death of key U.S. ally, General Raziq, and perhaps the most daring attack by the terror group since the U.S. first invaded in 2001. There are concerns that with the death of General Raziq, the security of the Kandahar province will be severely threatened, following the same path as the Uruzgan province, whose security degraded rapidly after the assassination of the province’s governor.

Jaime McIntyre, “Somalia airstrike shines spotlight on America’s shadowy wars,” The Washington Examiner, October 18, 2018. The United States recently conducted its twenty-seventh airstrike in Somalia against al-Qaeda branch, al-Shabaab, killing 60 militants. The airstrike acts as one of the few reminders that U.S. troops are deployed in Somalia, Yemen, and Niger, a testament to the low-profile of the operations in these regions.

Alicia Chavy, “Nigeria’s Misguided Militaristic Strategy Against Boko Haram,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, October 18, 2018. Nigeria has largely employed a kinetic, militaristic approach to the defeat of Boko Haram and has used such terms to describe its defeat of the group within its borders. However, this article suggests that a more truthful and fluid examination of the group’s influence and activity within the state could help to increase citizens’ support of the government while simultaneously working to combat the terror group’s propaganda.

Thomas Joscelyn, “The Afghanistan War Is Over. We Lost.” The Weekly Standard, October 18, 2018. Joscelyn argues that the attack by the Taliban on a meeting between Afghan officials and the senior U.S. military commander in Afghanistan is the final indication that the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan. As was the case during the Obama administration, the Trump administration appears to be seeking a face-saving withdrawal in the wake of a strengthened Taliban, bolstered by the support of both Pakistan and al-Qaeda.

Sirwan Kajjo, “US Says Committed to Syria, Iraq Beyond Anti-IS Efforts,” Voice of America, October 17, 2018. Although President Trump cut approximately $230 million in stabilization funds to Syria this summer, Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, says that the United States remains committed to stabilizing the areas that it has helped to free from ISIS occupation. Stabilization efforts, although different from rebuilding, are sometimes indistinguishable from the latter and are necessary for the ultimate eradication of radical ideologies in areas most affected by ISIS occupation.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Jihadists in Syria react to Sochi agreement,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 16, 2018. In the latest of public jihadist reactions to the Sochi agreement between Turkey and Russia that will result in a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) has indicated that it neither overtly rejects nor endorses the agreement. Although the statement uses aggressive rhetoric against Russia, it does not similarly attack Turkey, subtly acknowledging the nation’s support in its ‘revolution’ against the Russia-Iran-Assad coalition. Other terror organizations have rejected the deal, citing past deals that ultimately hindered the jihadists efforts.

Bill Roggio, “Taliban claims to have captured 2 Afghan districts,” FDD’S Long War Journal, October 13, 2018. Although the claim has not been independently verified, the Taliban claims to have captured two Afghan districts within 24 hours. This comes despite American efforts to negotiate with the Taliban and emphasizes the group’s continued unwillingness to share power within the Afghan government.

Jeffrey Stacey, “An End to the War in Afghanistan,” The National Interest, October 13, 2018. Although this year has been the bloodiest in Afghanistan since 2001, June’s ceasefire has given hope that Afghanistan’s national government, the Taliban, and the intervening foreign parties may reach a peaceful negotiation. This article argues that for the first time in the conflict, each of the involved great powers’ interests now lie in achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict rather than in its continuation.

Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet, and Joby Warrick, “Foiled Paris bomb plot raises fears that Iran is planning attacks in Europe,” The Washington Post, October 12, 2018. Following the detention and deportation to Belgium of an Iranian diplomat suspected of planning a bombing against Iranian dissidents in Paris, European and Western officials fear that Iran is preparing to target its global adversaries. Iran’s increased intelligence operations suggest the possibility that the country is planning more terrorist attacks across the globe in retaliation for sanctions from the United States and increased tensions within its relations with European nations.

Lee Walter, “An Unnecessary Evil: Why ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Laws Are a Threat to Civil Rights,” Georgetown Security Studies Review, October 13, 2018. Walter argues that while “domestic terroris”’ laws could potentially help to assuage terrorism-related fear, their infringement on civil rights should serve as a deterrent to the introduction of these types of laws in the United States.

Abdul Qadir Sediqi, “Afghan Taliban say will continue talks with U.S. peace envoy,” Reuters, October 13, 2018. The U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, including newly appointed Zalmay Khalilzad, met with Taliban leaders in Qatar in an effort to create a path towards ending the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. Although neither side agreed to the others demands, both sides agreed to continue meeting in an effort to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Gregory D. Johnsen, “The Two Faces of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” War on the Rocks, October 11, 2018 Johnsen discusses the two sides of AQAP’s terrorist organization, examining both its domestic insurgency and its international terrorism. Although AQAP attacks have surged in Yemen and surrounding areas in the past few years, seeming to indicate the organization’s growth, these attacks have largely been the result of growth in the domestic insurgency rather than increased potency in the realm of international terror.

Hasib Danish Alikozai, “Blackwater Founder Meets with Afghan Powerbrokers, Aims to Privatize War,” Voice of America, October 10, 2018. In an update on Erik Prince’s efforts to privatize the war in Afghanistan, the Blackwater founder has continued to advocate for privatization by meeting with influential Afghanis. Despite his continued push, Prince is unlikely to receive the necessary support for his plans, as the United States, the Taliban, and the current Afghan government all appear to lean against privatization.

Clifford D. May, “Trump’s new counterterrorism strategy,” The Washington Times, October 9, 2018. May examines President Trump’s new counterterrorism strategy, highlighting his willingness to use “Islamist” in reference to some radical terror groups and to emphasize that the United States is fighting an entire terrorist ideology rather than a collection of extremist individuals.

Amir Toumaj, “France blames Iranian intelligence for attempted bombing but questions remain,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 8, 2018. French officials announced that they had conclusively linked Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) to a thwarted bombing attempt in Paris in June. Although officials declared MOIS responsible for the attack, they have not yet identified the senior Iranian official responsible for giving the order. Relations between France and Iran remain tense as this information indicates that Iran’s seeming tendency to igniting terror in Europe remains prevalent.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Taliban calls for attacks to disrupt Afghan elections,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 8, 2018. In a recently released statement, the Taliban calls for attacks against those promoting and protecting the “American conspiracy” that is the election process. This statement should serve as a warning to those calling for the Taliban to participate in elections by indicating that the group has no intention of taking part in a democratic process.

Associated Press, “2 Syrian rebel groups begin pulling weapons in Idlib area,” Stars and Stripes, October 6, 2018. Despite conflict between two rebel groups in the Idlib region earlier this week, a 15-20km demilitarized zone, arranged by Russia and Turkey, appears to be in progress in the area. Although Russia and Turkey have reached an agreement, the area is complicated by the presence of al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates as well as coalition rebel forces.

Associated Press, “Bombs in former ISIS strongholds in Iraq kill 1, wound 16,” Stars and Stripes, October 6, 2018. Although Iraq has seen a sharp decline in bombings since ISIS lost control of territory in the country, two bombings on Saturday, October 6 reveal that the terrorist organization and its followers remain active, if somewhat muted, in the region.

Jim Garamone, “Centcom Commander Discusses Regional Hotspots,” Small Wars Journal, October 5, 2018. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, discussed U.S. presence in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen in a press conference marking the return of his almost three-week trip through U.S. areas of operation. Votel emphasized a continued commitment to the routing of terrorist organizations and supporters within these regions.

Dan Lamothe, “U.S soldier killed in Afghanistan while helping colleagues whose vehicle hit bomb,” The Washington Post, October 5, 2018. Sgt. James Slape was killed by an explosion in the Helmand province of Afghanistan while trying to clear a path to a vehicle that had been hit by an earlier explosion. Slape is the fourteenth American to die in combat in Afghanistan this year, serving as a reminder that while the American presence in the region has decreased significantly since 2011-12, Americans remain active in the fight against Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban.

Al-Monitor Staff, “US scraps treaty with Iran while calling for another treaty,” Al-Monitor, October 4, 2018. U.S.-Iran tensions remain high as the United States pulled out of the Treaty of Amity on October 3 after the International Court of Justice ruled that the United States should lift recent sanctions against Iran. U.S. sanctions against the state have been enacted as a result of U.S. claims that Iran continues to sanction and sponsor terrorist activity.

Claudia Grisales, “Trump announces new US counterterrorism strategy,” Stars and Stripes, October 4, 2018. The United States announced a new counterterrorism strategy that National Security Advisor John Bolton has called “the first robust counterterrorism strategy” since 2011. Although specifics have not yet been released, the strategy includes pursuing terrorists to their source and isolating them from their sources of support.

Caleb Weiss, “Al Qaeda branch claims IED attack on Tunisian soldiers,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 4, 2018. AQIM’s smaller Tunisian branch, Uqba bin Nafi Battalio, claimed an IED attack on a Tunisian patrol group that killed at least one Tunisian soldier. This is only the second attack claimed by the AQIM offshoot, but reveals that Tunisia still faces threats from the terrorist organizations within its borders.

Caleb Weiss, “JNIM portrays its fight as part of al-Qaeda’s global jihad,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 2, 2018. In a recent release by its media branch, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) portrays its fight in Mali against France and the G5 as part of al-Qaeda’s global jihad to ‘protect the vulnerable.’ Although some have suggested the JNIM is merely affiliated with al-Qaeda, this release appears to contradict that understanding, by placing the group on equal footing with al-Qaeda’s other official branches.

Edwin Haroldson, “Somalila: Al Shabaab hits Italian army convoy in Mogadishu,” SomTribune, October 1, 2018. An Italian convoy was hit by an explosives-laden vehicle in Mogadishu in an attack later claimed by al-Shabaab. The attack demonstrates the continued presence of al-Shabaab in the city despite being driven out in 2011. One political observer has indicated that there is an unspoken agreement between al-Shabaab and the Somalian National Army that uses the threat of the terrorist organization to procure international funding for the region.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Badness personified,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 1, 2018. Following the Taliban’s recent announcement of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death, Joscelyn examines the role of the United States and the CIA in creating and incubating one of the world’s most devastating terrorists. Joscelyn then calls for the United States to learn from its ‘deal with the devil’ as it moves forward in the fight against terrorism today.

September 2018

Kareem Fahim, “U.S. approach to Yemen is challenged as country splinters and government vanishes,” The Washington Post, September 23, 2018. Division in Yemen makes the possibility of negotiating peace talks and developing a comprehensive American policy in the country increasingly difficult. Although some regions of the country have routed terrorist organizations and developed working government systems, a main priority appears to be maintaining regional autonomy rather than reasserting national unity.

Bill Roggio, “Somalia remains a ‘terrorist safe haven,’ State notes,” FDD’s Long War Journal, September 21, 2018. Despite efforts by the US African Command, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and the Somalian National Army, Shabaab continues to control large areas of territory within the country. Further, the al-Qaeda affiliate’s insurgency appears not to have been slowed by more than a decade’s worth of targeting by the U.S. military and the CIA.

Rod Nordland, “The Death Toll for Afghan Forces is Secret. Here’s Why,” The New York Times, September 21, 2018. The death toll of Afghan Forces has increased from 22 per day in 2016 to 30-40 per day in 2018. Afghan forces are also struggling to recruit new forces, partly a result of the extremely high mortality rate and partly a result of the momentum seemingly enjoyed by the Taliban forces in the country.

Nisan Ahmado, “Arab Conflicts Seen Not Rooted in Ideology Alone,” Voice of America, September 20, 2018. A panel of experts last week discussed the various reasons why people join extremist groups and causes, highlighting the fact that poverty, income disparity, unemployment, and political participation are all factors in the decision to participate in radical organizations. Although this is not entirely new information, these factors may be easier to mitigate or resolve than a steadfast adherence to jihadist ideology.

Susannah George, “U.S. Tags Iran Anew As Top Terror Sponsor, Global Attacks Fall,” RealClear Defense, September 20, 2018. The State Department’s annual survey of global terrorism again highlighted Iran as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism. In addition to highlighting Iran’s continued use of terrorism to promote its goals, the report also revealed a 23% drop in global terrorist attacks in 2017 compared to 2016, largely the result of the defeat of ISIS in Iraq.

Caleb Weiss, “Uzbek group shows spoils from Afghan base,” FDD’s Long War Journal, September 20, 2018. Uzbek militant group, Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), released more photos of weapons captured from an Afghan military base. The group claims to be part of the Taliban’s larger offensive in Afghanistan, highlighting the Taliban’s continued role in destabilizing the war-torn country.

Cindy Saine, “US Official: Islamic State, Al-Qaida Determined and Adaptable,” Voice of America, September 19, 2018. The State Department’s recent report on global terrorism indicates that while strides have been made against ISIS and al-Qaida, the groups have turned their focus to the Internet, soliciting followers and encouraging attacks from afar. This methodology makes it more difficult to combat the terror groups with conventional tactics and strategies. The report also emphasizes despite al-Qaida operating under the radar, the group remains active and extremely dangerous. 

Thomas Joscelyn, “Pakistan continues to harbor Taliban, including al Qaeda-linked Haqqanis,” FDD’s Long War Journal, September 19, 2018. Despite increased pressure by the United States to end Pakistan’s state-sponsorship of terrorism, the State Department’s report, Country Reports on Terrorism 2017, indicates that Pakistan continues to allow the Taliban and the Haqqani network to direct the Afghan insurgency from safe havens within its borders.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda leader: America is the main enemy in a ‘single war with different fronts,’” FDD’S Long War Journal, September 11, 2018. Joscelyn analyzes al-Qaead emir Ayman al-Zawahiri’s speech on September 11, which declares the United States to be the main enemy of the Islamic jihad. Zawahiri restates many of al-Qaeda’s long-standing beliefs including its belief that the United States has a Judeo-Christian bias that dictates its actions against the entire Muslim world. Joscelyn examines many of Zawahiri’s claims and refutes the validity of his accusations.

Clifford D. May, “Extremism and fragile states,” The Washington Times, September 11, 2018. A response to the U.S. Institute of Peace’s recent release of its “Interim Report on Extremism in Fragile States.” The author argues that while extremism can be compounded by the fragility of the states in which it exists, jihad is an essential part of the Muslim text aimed at creating a new Islamic empire, and its followers cannot merely be attributed to the failing of states in the Sahel, North Africa, and the Near East.

August 2018

Rebecca Kheel, “Faced with opposition, Erik Prince shops his plan for Afghanistan,” The Hill, August 24, 2018. Although President Trump turned down Erik Prince’s proposal last year to replace conventional American troops with private contractors last year, Prince has resurfaced with a similar proposal. While many military officials feel that this move would be unwise, it is possible that Trump could pursue the option because it is one that has not yet been tested.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda leader argues Taliban’s ‘blessed emirate’ a core part of new caliphate,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 24, 2018. In a video released on August 23, al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri reiterated the importance of the Taliban’s emirate and jihad in Afghanistan as the nucleus of the new Islamic umma. This is important as the United States continues to encourage Afghan leaders to consider peace talks with the Taliban because it indicates that the Taliban is not interested in gaining power within the borders of Afghanistan, but rather seeks to expand its control over the larger Muslim community.

A.J. Nadaff, “Kosovo, home to many ISIS recruits, is struggling to stamp out its homegrown terrorism problem,” The Washington Post, August 24, 2018. Kosovo, a country that has produced more foreign ISIS fighters per capita than any other Western nation, is struggling with the rehabilitation of homegrown terrorists that are now being released from 3-5 year prison sentences. Until U.S. aid in April, Kosovo did not have a comprehensive rehabilitation program for returned fighters, allowing for the possibility that fighters may return to their radical ideologies as soon as they are released from their sentences.

Edith M. Lederer, “US urges ‘enduring defeat’ of ISIS, offers force if necessary,” MilitaryTimes, August 24, 2018. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, emphasized the need for all countries to continue the fight against ISIS. Warning that the group and its ideologies have developed influences throughout the world, Haley offered American support to those nations fighting the group.

Tara Copp, “Trump strategy is working, departing general in Afghanistan says,” MilitaryTimes, August 23, 2018. In his last press conference as commander of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson said that the current strategy is working and needs time to realize the progress it has made. Nicholson also said that while the Taliban was not looking to negotiate last year when it appeared that the United States was leaving, the group is more likely to pursue peaceful negotiations at this point.

Thomas Joscelyn, “Authorities investigate a knife attack west of Paris,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 23, 2018. Islamic State claimed an attack by Chechen-born, Khamzat Azimov, after he killed he assaulted several people near an opera house in Paris. However, authorities are investigating the possibility of a familial dispute, as two of the people killed were related to the attack. However, IS has not provided concrete evidence linking themselves to the attacker.

Gary Anderson, “A Test for Privatization in Afghanistan,” Small Wars Journal, August 2018. Anderson proposes a test for privatization in the northwest region of Afghanistan by using private security forces to protect the construction process of the Ring Road, a highway system that will allow the Kabul government to assert its control throughout the nation.

Waliullah Rahmani, “The Taliban Takes on the Islamic State: Insurgents Vie for Control of Northern Afghanistan,” Terrorism Monitor (Vol 16, Issue 16): The Jamestown Foundation, August 10, 2018. Rahmani highlights the continued fighting between the Taliban and the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS’s Afghanistan branch). Their ongoing clashes emphasize that the two groups are unlikely to come together in a joint effort against their enemies.

Bill Roggio, “Ghazni City up for grabs after coordinated Taliban assault,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 10, 2018. Both the Afghan government (and NATO’s command in Afghanistan, Resolute Support) and the Taliban claim control over Ghazni City after an attack by the terrorist organization on the provincial capital. The Afghan government and Resolute Support have previously been unreliable in their reports of control over areas in Afghanistan, raising questions about the validity of the Afghan claim.

Liz Sly, “Syria’s war could be entering its last and most dangerous phase,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2018. Although Assad now controls the majority of Syria, at least a third of the country remains both outside of its control and occupied by foreign forces, including American Special Operations forces and Turkish military personnel. Foreign powers, including Russia, Turkey, the United States, Iran, and Israel, all have significant interests in the outcome of Syria’s war and these conflicting interests could potentially result in the ignition of an even larger regional conflict.

Amir Toumaj, “Did IRGC commander say Houthis were ordered to strike tankers?FDD’s Long War Journal, August 9, 2018. A commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed that the Houthis in Yemen had struck Saudi targets on Iran’s orders. Iran has previously denied all claims of direct military support to the Houthis, making this confirmation particularly important to regional actors like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Caleb Weiss, “Shabaab claims deadly IED blast in Kenya,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 9, 2018. Al-Qaeda’s East African branch claimed an IED ambush in Lamu County that killed at least 5 Kenyan soldiers and wounded six more. Al-Shabaab remains active and deadly in Kenya, particularly in the Boni forest region, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Kenyan security forces. The ongoing presence of al-Qaeda activity in the region indicates that the group continues to wield significant influence in the region, despite being largely overshadowed in recent years by ISIS.

Shawn Snow, “Gap in Army advisor brigade deployments could create complications in Afghanistan,” ArmyTimes, August 9, 2018.Although the Army’s first security force assistance brigade (SFAB) is slated to return to the United States in November, the second SFAB is not expected to deploy until early 2019. Traditionally, these forces would have crossed over on the ground in Afghanistan, providing valuable lessons and insight. Consequently, the gap in deployments could increase the possibility of avoidable complications in the region.

Claire Felter, “Nigeria’s Battle with Boko Haram,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 8, 2018.An overview of the rise of Boko Haram and its implications on Nigeria and the surrounding regions. It further examines the broader and longer-lasting effects of the terrorist organization on the Lake Chad Basin.

Robert Kane, “Terrorism Defined and Why It Matters,” Small Wars Journal, August 2018. Kane examines terrorism as defined by the United States government and uses that definition to highlight the differences between ISIS and al-Qaeda. Kane argues that while ISIS, with its desire to hold territory, is an insurgency, al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization as defined by the USG. The article further examines how these differences should inform the strategies used to fight each group.

Jack Detsch, “Watchdog: Islamic State fighter numbers increase in Syria,” Al-Monitor, August 8, 2018. Although the Pentagon estimated last December that 2,000 Islamic State fighters were left in Syria, that number could be as high as 6,000. This estimate comes at a time when the public has been led to believe that ISIS has been almost entirely defeated and highlights the ongoing nature of the fight to route ISIS from Syria.

Pippa Crerar “British army unit will tackle threat from female suicide bombers,” The Guardian, August 7, 2018. Britain’s defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, recently announced the formation of Britain’s first specialist unit for the express purpose of combatting sexual violence and the use of female and child suicide bombers by terrorist organizations. The use of young girls as suicide bombers has been particularly prominent in regions of North Africa, including those affected by the influence of Boko Haram.

Jan Philipp Wilhelm, “When al-Qaida brought terror to East Africa,” Deutsche Welle, August 6, 2018. An overview of the rise of terrorism and al-Qaida in East Africa from the U.S. embassy bombings in 1998 to today.

Daniel Gallington and Abraham Wagner, “A Middle East strategic alliance,” The Washington Times, August 6, 2018. At a time when Iran’s influence is threatening to spread across the Middle East, the Trump administration is pursuing the possible formation of a moderate Sunni alliance to counter Iran’s radical Shi’ism. Although such an alliance has been considered in the past, the costs and possible pitfalls of these relationships should be considered carefully before entering into another NATO-esque alliance.

Iraq says jihadists repeatedly hit power line,” Al-Monitor, August 5, 2018. Jihadists attacked the 400-kilovolt power line between Kirkuk and Diyala for the eighth time in two months. Although the power line has been repaired, the attack reveals that IS remains active in pockets of Iraq despite being ‘defeated’ in December of last year.

IS killed hostage from Syria’s Sweida: media, monitor,” Al-Monitor, August 5, 2018. IS kidnapped more than 30 people from a village populated primarily with members of the secluded Druze religion in Sweida, Syria last week. IS executed one of its male hostages over the weekend, leaving 30 women remaining in captivity.

Afghan suicide blast kills three Czech soldiers, Taliban claim responsibility,” Agence France Presse, August 5, 2018. A suicide blast killed three Czech soldiers patrolling the eastern Afghanistan border, wounding one American and two Afghanis. Both the Taliban and IS have conducted terrorist attacks in the region as both groups look to increase their presence in the weakened state of Afghanistan.

Caleb Weiss, “Foreign Islamic State fighters captured by Taliban in Jawzjan,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 4, 2018. A video of more than a dozen Islamic State fighters surrendering to the Taliban gives insight into the nationalities of the IS fighters in northern Afghanistan. The majority of the fighters appear to be from Central Asia, with others from Indonesia, Turkey, and France. IS also recruits heavily from Afghanistan, so the presence of foreign fighters provides a clearer picture of the diversity of IS members in the region.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “US airstrike hits Shabaab north of Mogadishu,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 3, 2018. The U.S. killed four Shabaab terrorists in the first publicly announced strike by AFRICOM in two months. Despite launching 19 attacks against al-Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, the United States has been unable to appreciably affect the group’s activities.

Masood Saifullah, “Are Taliban and Kabul teaming up against ‘Islamic State’?Deutsche Welle, August 3, 2018. Despite stating otherwise, it appears that the Afghan government has turned a blind eye to some Taliban operations against IS. Although Kabul has carried out operations against both groups, the conflict between the Taliban and IS serves the Afghani government and its efforts to rid the state of jihadist organizations.

Alex Ward, “Why some experts are cautiously optimistic about peace talks with the Taliban,” Vox, August 3, 2018. This article examines the situation on the ground in Afghanistan in the wake of the 3-day ceasefire that took place to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Although some experts believe that new peace talks with the Taliban have the potential to produce successful results, history suggests that such efforts are unlikely to create a long-lasting resolution.

Robert Cassidy, “Afghanistan Strategy: Few Tough Questions, Fewer Detailed Answers,” RealClear Defense, August 2, 2018. The U.S. Senate confirmed the ninth American commander in Afghanistan and seventeenth commander of the campaign overall at the end of June, seemingly without requiring detailed answers to the Senate’s hearing questions. Importantly, the commander did not provide significant information about a new strategy to deal with Pakistan’s continued support for the Taliban’s offensive in Afghanistan, which is, perhaps, the most detrimental factor in the United States’ efforts to defeat the terrorist organization.  

Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Prepares to Reduce Troops and Shed Missions in Africa,” The New York Times, August 1, 2018. The leader of the U.S. AFRICOM recently submitted a plan to reduce troops in Africa in order to focus on threats from China and Russia, as emphasized in January’s new defense strategy. Critics argue that the American presence in Africa is already small and a reduction in troops levels could hurt U.S. counterterror goals in the region.

 Bill Roggio, “Taliban says Islamic State has been ‘completely defeated’ in Jawzjan,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 1, 2018. The Taliban launched an offensive against the Islamic State in Jawzjan and says it has “completely defeated” the Islamic State in the area. However, it’s unlikely that the Islamic State’s presence has been eradicated as the group has proven resilient in Afghanistan in the past.

July 2018

Bill Roggio & Alexandra Gutowski, “US Counterterrorism Strikes: Tempo remains high in Somalia and Yemen, transparency improves,” FDD’s Long War Journal, July 27, 2018. This article compares counterterror strikes in several Middle Eastern and African regions outside of active combat zones to strikes in the same regions in 2017. While many of the numbers are on par with those from 2017, there have been significantly fewer counterterror strikes in Yemen this year than last.

1 in 5 Malaysian undergrads find terrorism an effective tool for achieving objectives: Survey,” The Straits Times, July 27, 2018. A 274-page paper surveying 2,000 undergrads from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Taiwan indicates that approximately 20-25% of students felt that terrorism is an effective means of achieving objectives. Further, 7% of surveyed Malaysian students felt that terrorism, even resulting in the deaths of civilians, was not illegal or unethical.

Unlike Last Year, BRICS Declaration Doesn’t List Names of Terror Groups,” The Wire, July 27, 2018. Last year, the declaration made at the Xiamen BRICS summit specifically named several terror groups, including several Pakistani-based organizations. Although this was touted as a diplomatic victory for India, this year’s declaration did not mention terror groups by name and focused instead on combating terrorism in general.

Kevin Ivey, “Counterterrorism: Taking Down the Big Man,” RealClear Defense, July 26, 2018. Ivey highlights the problems associated with the leadership decapitation strategy that is often employed against terrorist organizations. While the strategy has been effective against younger groups and groups with charismatic leaderships, Ivey argues that it is ineffective against the bureaucratic organization of ISIS.

Bryant Harris, “Washington ratchets up sanctions threats against Turkey,” Al-Monitor, July 26, 2018. As a result of failed efforts by the State Department to make headway with Turkey in regard to its arbitrary detention of American citizens, the Senate and the Trump administration appear to have reached a consensus regarding increased financial sanctions against the NATO ally. These sanctions reinforce the fact that the Trump administration is willing to press dysfunctional allies in ways that the Obama administration did not.

Toby Dershowitz and Benjamin Weinthal, “Iran’s Long, Bloody History of Terror and Espionage in Europe,” RealClear Defense, July 25, 2018. Although Iranian-linked terrorists have been prosecuted for attacks and attempted assassinations in Europe, most European nations have failed to hold Iran accountable for its state-sponsoring of terrorism. Dershowtiz and Weinthal argue that until Iran is held responsible for the actions and attacks it orders, the regime will continue to conduct terror and espionage across the European continent.

Laura Strickler and Dan De Luce, “Watchdog says U.S. wasted more than $15 billion in past 11 years in Afghanistan,” NBC News, July 25, 2018. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has produced an estimate of the money wasted during U.S. reconstruction efforts. The $15 billion total may further fuel President Trump’s apparent skepticism about continued U.S. presence in the region.

Marsin Alshamary, “Authoritarian Nostalgia Among Iraqi Youth: Roots and Repercussions,” War on the Rocks. July 25, 2018. Many Iraqi youths feel sentimental about the Ba’athist regime that preceded their generation. Corruption, the invasion of ISIS, and issues with the Kurds have caused many young Iraqis to feel that the country needs a strong leader like Saddam Hussein. It is important to note the role of ISIS in creating some of this sentiment as the Iraqi nation’s inability to withstand the invasion created a significant lack of faith in the country’s leadership.

Thomas Jocelyn, “US-led coalition: 6 Islamic State operatives plotted against Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and US,” FDD’s Long War Journal, July 25, 2018. Six Islamic State operatives actively involved in plotting attacks against Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and the United States have been killed in airstrikes since April. Unfortunately, the press release giving this information is likely an indication that the Islamic State maintains some command and control over these attacks.

Travis Fedschun, “ISIS claims Toronto shooting as probe reportedly finds gunman visited terror websites, lived in Middle East,” Fox News, July 25, 2018. Although ISIS took responsibility for the Toronto shooting last week, Canadian officials have yet to report direct ties between the gunman and the terror organization. ISIS may be hoping to increase its credibility as it loses ground in the Middle East by falsely claiming attacks with details that cannot support or deny the credibility of the claims.

Jack Detsch, “UAE talks up diplomacy as Congress curtails US involvement in Yemen war,” Al-Monitor, July 24, 2018. The UAE has increased its rhetorical dedication to the UN peace process as the United States moves to restrict its involvement in the ongoing Yemen war. Representatives of the UAE argue that the ultimate goal of the coalition is to leave Yemen while preventing an Iranian stronghold in the region.

Darren E. Tromblay, “Tech Pressure on Privacy: National Security Requires a Fuller View of Corporate Responsibility,” Just Security, July 19, 2018. Tromblay argues that a fully effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) paradigm needs to include increased consideration for the impact of CSR on national security.

Debasis Dash, “The Relevance of Clausewitz and Kautilya in Counterinsurgency Operations,” The Strategy Bridge, July 19, 2018. Using third-century Kautilya and nineteenth-century Clausewitz, Dash underscores the relevance of historical war-making models for modern counterinsurgency efforts.

Thomas Joscelyn, “US amends terror designation of Shabaab to include Kenyan ‘wing,’FDD’s Long War Journal, July 19, 2018. The United States’ terror designation of Shabaab will now include its Kenyan affiliate, Al-Hijra. The Kenyan group has been crucial for both the facilitation of insurgent travel into Somalia and many of the external terror activities conducted by Shabaab. 

Stephen Blank, “Russia, Iran and the Middle East: What Comes Next?Eurasia Daily Monitor (Vol 15, Issue 107), July 18, 2018. Recent actions by Russian officials appear to support rumors that Russia will pressure Iran to leave Syria in return for a proposed deal by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. However, a vague timeline for Iran’s evacuation and contradictory comments by Russian leaders should caution U.S. leaders against prematurely lifting sanctions against Russia.

Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Taliban, Islamic State continue to battle in northern Afghanistan,” FDD’s Long War Journal, July 18, 2018. Skirmishes between the Taliban and the Islamic State in northern Afghanistan have hindered the Taliban’s efforts to control and contest territory in Afghanistan while simultaneously undermining its rhetoric that it is the only legitimate Islamic opposition to the Afghan government.

Bill Roggio, “Afghan commandos free 58 from Taliban prison,” FDD’s Long War Journal, July 17, 2018. Afghan commandos infiltrated a Taliban-operated prison in the Helmand province, freeing 58, including 33 civilians. While the mission reveals an increase in the effectiveness of Afghan forces, the Taliban’s ability to operate prisons within Afghanistan reveals its continued presence in the region.

 Lolita C. Baldor, “Army Ponders Changes After Insider Attack in Afghanistan,”, July 16, 2018. An “insider” attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan resulted in the death of one American soldier and the wounding of two others. There remains some uncertainty around the assailant – whether he was an Afghan soldier or a Taliban infiltrator. This is the first ‘inside’ attack in five months, although U.S. military officials acknowledge the continued possibility of friendly fire attack.

The interconnected terrorist threats in North Africa and the Sahel,” The Arab Weekly, July 15, 2018. This article notes that the surge of terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel is cause for concern, not just due to the ramifications of the individual surges, but because the regions are more connected than they superficially seem.

Idrees Ali and Jonathan Landay, “Exclusive: After discouraging year, U.S. officials expect review of Afghan strategy,” Reuters, July 10, 2018. Due to lack of progress in Afghanistan, officials expect a large-scale review of U.S. policy in the region in the coming months.

June 2018

Phillip Walter Wellman, “US strikes more than 20 Taliban targets after cease-fire ends,” Stars and Stripes, June 30, 2018. Although Afghan and U.S. forces extended their side of the unprecedented 3-day ceasefire with the Taliban, Taliban leadership declined to continue the ceasefire, choosing to continue fighting instead. Despite concern about potentially giving the Taliban an advantage, the United States struck back forcefully following the end of the government ceasefire.

Headquarters of G5 Sahel anti-terrorism force car-bombed in Mali; two soldiers and civilian killed,” The Japan Times, June 30, 2018. An attack on the G5 Sahel headquarters in Mali on Friday demonstrates the ongoing difficulties facing the force as it attempts to counter terrorism in the region. This attack came after a mission earlier that day that resulted in the capture or killing of 15 jihadists.

Matthew Burgess, “Australian Who Planned Travel to Syria Faces Terrorism Charges,” Bloomberg, June 29, 2018. A 21-year old Australian native was arrested on terror-related charges late last month. The man was accused both of planning to engage in hostilities in Syria and encouraging others to do the same. The arrest serves to highlight the continued influence of Middle Eastern terrorism on young adults in the West.

Shelly Kittleson, “IS killings and kidnappings in central Iraq raise questions,” Al-Monitor, June 29, 2018. Recent IS kidnappings and killings in rural areas of Iraq are provoking concerns about where the insurgency is likely to reemerge within the state. Friction between the non-local PMU forces that helped to clear IS and locals has also created an environment that could be conducive to a resurgence of the terrorist group in the region.

Rikar Hussein and Zana Omar, “SDF, Iraqis Defend Syrian Border Town from IS,” VOA News, June 29, 2018. The U.S.-backed SDF are working in conjunction with the Iraqi army to prevent IS from regaining strategically important territory on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

 Schlomo Ben-Ami, “The political decline of Islam in the Middle East,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, June 25, 2018. This article argues that politics and strategic interests have overtaken religious and sectarian divides as the impetus behind actions taken by Middle Eastern states.

Steve Chapman, “In Afghanistan, We Persist in Futility,”, June 25, 2018. A brief editorial arguing that U.S. engagement in Afghanistan is an exercise in futility.

Jack Detsch, “Congress seeks uptick in North Africa operations,” Al-Monitor, June 25, 2018. House Homeland Security Chair, Michael McCaul (R-Texas), presented a bill this month that would formalize the United States’ 13-year counterterror effort in North Africa. The bill would create a wider-reaching strategy to fight terror in the region and is asks for $84 million to support the effort in the upcoming fiscal year.

Nabih Bulos, “It’s an awkward dance as the U.S., Russia and Iran all zero in on Islamic State,” The LA Times, June 22, 2018. Bulos discusses the conflicting states and interests associated with the final push against remaining Islamic State militants.

Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Iraqi Police, Hezbollah Brigades clash in Baghdad,” FDD’s Long War Journal, June 21, 2018. Roggio and Weiss note the ongoing confrontations between Iraq’s established national security forces and the Popular Mobilization Units, created in 2014, that are overtly linked to Iran. The Hezbollah Brigades, the section of the PMU that was involved in the recent confrontation, has been designated a foreign terrorist organization since 2009.

Bryant Harris, “Congress wants Trump to resume aid in Syria,” Al-Monitor, June 21, 2018. Congress recently allocated $150 million in stabilization aid to Syria in response to President Trump’s freezing of $200 million in aid in an effort to prevent President Assad’s regime from benefiting from the American aid. Despite allocating the funds, both Houses agree that President Assad’s regime should not benefit from the non-lethal, humanitarian aid.

May 2018

Mohamed Samir. “Terrorism remains key threat in Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa.” Daily News Egypt. May 8, 2018. No single factor can be highlighted as the cause of rising militancy in these regions, making it difficult for the Egyptian government to combat the terrorism that continues to affect its businesses and the daily lives of its citizens.

Sana Elouazi. “Morocco: A Breeding Ground for Spain’s Jihadi Terrorists?Morocco World News. May 8, 2018. A recent study shows that the majority of terrorists arrested or killed in Spain have been of Moroccan descent. This raises questions concerning the impact of Moroccan immigrants on Spain, but, given that these attackers are predominately second generation, highlights the possibility that it is Spain, rather than Morocco, that is at fault for the radicalization of its immigrant citizens.

Askia Muhammad. “Trump meeting with Nigerian president focused on trade, terrorism.” The Final Call. May 8, 2018. Although President Trump has a checkered history with regard to African nations, his White House meeting with Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, emphasizes U.S. concerns about terrorism in North Africa.

Alexandra Zavis and Micheline Tobia. “Hezbollah set to become dominant force in Lebanon’s Parliament.” Los Angeles Times. May 7, 2018. Hezbollah and its allies will control 71 seats in Lebanon’s Parliament following Sunday’s elections. Although there are concerns about fraud, vote buying, and confusion surrounding the new voting procedures, Hezbollah’s leader was quoted saying that now that the elections are over, it is time for the Lebanese to unite. Despite promising rhetoric, this is likely to cause issues with Lebanon’s Western allies.

Scott Peterson. “In Baghdad, Iraqis embrace return to normalcy, with eye on its fragility.” The Christian Science Monitor. May 7, 2018. The effects of ISIS’ military defeat in Mosul are being enjoyed by Iraqis in Baghdad. The city, once fraught with several hundred civilian deaths a day, has gradually begun to return to normalcy. While citizens remain cautious, they are generally optimistic about post-ISIS potential.

Caleb Weiss. “At least two dozen killed in Nigeria suicide bombings.” FDD’S Long War Journal. May 2, 2018. A week after a Boko Haram attack in Maiduguri, two suicide bombers attacked a mosque in Mubi. Although the attack has not yet been claimed, it follows the same model as previous Boko Haram attacks by targeting civilians and using a first suicide bomber to enter the mosque, acting as a member of the congregation.

Richard Sisk. “US Deactivates Ground HQ in Iraq as ISIS Fight Winds Down.” May 1, 2018. In a ceremony on the last day of April, the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command flag was folded at its headquarters in Baghdad, marking a momentous moment in the fight against ISIS. Although significant works remains to aid the country in its recovery from the terrorist group’s rule, the ceremony indicated that ISIS’ reign in the country has largely ended.

Bill Roggio. “Mattis claims Taliban ‘cannot win at the ballot box.’” FDD’s Long War Journal. May 1, 2018. Roggio comments on the enduring belief within the U.S. government that the Taliban, ISIS, and other Islamic radicals want or intend to participate in a peaceful democratic process. Both formal and informal comments by top level US officials indicate that that U.S. leadership fails to understand that these jihadists seek to wage jihad against the Western world and impose Sharia law, not merely to gain power over a given state.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski. “Taliban Control of Afghan Districts Remains Unchanged Despite Increased U.S. Military Pressure.” FDD’S Long War Journal. May 1, 2018. The Taliban continues to control and contest significant portions of Afghanistan, despite increased efforts by the U.S. military to push back the radical group.

April 2018

Thomas Joscelyn. “Treasury sanctions ISIS facilitator based in the Philippines.” FDD’S Long War Journal. April 30, 2018. In a continuation of its efforts to disrupt the financial systems supporting ISIS, the U.S. Treasury Department has placed Myrna Mabanza on its list of designated terrorists. Mabanza is known to have coordinated the transfer and facilitation of significant funds to several branches of the ISIS organization.

Nickolas Roth, Matthew Bunn, and William H. Tobey. “Rhetoric aside, the US commitment to preventing nuclear terrorism is waning.” The Hill. April 19, 2018. Despite aggressive rhetoric to the contrary, the United States is pursuing policies that will reduce spending on programs responsible for preventing nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands.

Bryant Harris. “Congress seeks to exert more control over Middle East wars.” Al-Monitor. April 18, 2018. Congress is hoping to pass legislation that will limit the President’s war-making powers. This legislation is particularly urgent given the seemingly unlimited aid being given to Saudi Arabia to support their efforts against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Cristina Ariza. “Assessment of How the Media Overstates the Threat of Erroneously Called ‘Lone-Wolves’”. Divergent Options. April 16, 2018. This paper examines the term “lone-wof” and argues that the erroneous labeling of low-cost or individual attacks as lone-wolf attacks has largely overstated the threat posed by isolated, self-radicalized individuals.

Jack Detsch. “Pentagon acknowledges US contractor presence in Syria for first time.” Al-Monitor. April 13, 2018. The Pentagon acknowledged the presence of US contractors in Syria, indicating that the majority of these contractors played supporting roles, providing food, gasoline, and supplies. This comes at a time when the United States is deciding whether or not to remain in Syria despite the defeat of ISIS, to rebuild the nation and prevent the war-torn state from becoming a safe haven for resurgent terrorist groups.

Bill Roggio & Alexandra Gutowski. “Afghan mission releases district-level assessments.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 13, 2018. While the Long War Journal has previously created a map of Afghanistan based on Government Controlled, Contested, and Insurgent Controlled territories, SIGAR (the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) recently released a military detailed map analyzing the same information. This article provides an overview of the direct comparison.

ThreatCon Day 3: Fighting Terror Beyond the Grid Square.” The Cipher Brief. April 11, 2018. Three CIA veterans assess ISIS and al-Qaeda’s current states and warn that both groups are likely to resurface over time after regrouping. Each indicates that despite destroying physical manifestations of both organizations, the spread of terrorist ideology and their ability to take advantage of safe havens in the Middle East and North Africa allow for their continual resurgence.

Mukhtar A. Khan. “Islamic State a Deadly Force in Kabul.” RealClear Defense. April 10, 2018. An examination of the rising presence of ISIS in Afghanistan, particularly around Kabul. IS-Khorasan is based in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, strategically located on the Durand line between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The region’s porous border provides a safe haven from missile strikes or military operations while its location allows IS-Khorasan to expand with relative ease into other Afghan territories.

Jack Detsch. “US freezes military aid to chaotic Libya.” Al-Monitor. April 10, 2018. The United States has frozen much of its promised aid to Libya as a result of the ongoing civil war in the North African country. The presence of ISIS in the region has also limited the US diplomatic presence, hampering the United States’ ability to enact any of its current policies. Terrorism continues to threaten US activity in Middle Eastern and North African states by forcing a reduction in the US diplomatic presence in affected regions and creating chaotic environments ill-suited to American training and equipping efforts.

Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss. “Islamic Jihad Union conducts joint raid with the Taliban.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 10, 2018. The Islamic Jihad Union is an Uzbek terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It’s raids and activity in Afghanistan highlight the various different jihadi factions that are contributing to the state’s chaotic and violent environment.

Bossert on National Security: ‘We Really Are That Good.” The Cipher Brief. April 8, 2018. An interview with former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Thomas Bossert, gives an overview of both the security issues currently facing the United States and the actions being taken by the Trump Administration to address such concerns.

Algeria calls for ‘continental strategy’ to counter terrorism financing.” Pakistan Today. April 9, 2018. Algerian Foreign Minister, Abdelkader Messahel, emphasized the importance of developing a continental strategy to disrupt the eleven main sources of terrorist financing in the region.

Bill Roggio. “US military kills senior Islamic State commander in Afghan north.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 9, 2018. The United States killed senior Islamic State Khorasan province leader, Qari Hikmatullah, on April 5 in north Afghanistan. Hikmatullah’s death demonstrates a continued effort by the United States to eliminate ISIS’ faction in Afghanistan, while simultaneously highlighting the complexity of factions within the region.

Will Horner. “’No British involvement’ in interrogation of IS ‘Beatles.’Middle East Eye. April 8, 2018. The uncertainty concerning the location at which two members of an IS torture cell will be tried emphasizes the convoluted nature of the global war against terrorism. Although the men were formerly British citizens, their citizenship is believed to have been revoked, raising the possibilities of a trial in the United States, Britain, or at the international criminal court.

Four killed in suicide attack on Iraq party headquarters.” Middle East Eye. April 8, 2018. A suicide attack on a political party headquarters in the Sunni-majority Al-Anbar province of Iraq reveals the continuation of the violence that has plagued the Iraqi democratic process since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The attack stands as an important reminder to the West about the long-term implications of involvement without follow-through in the Middle East.

Houthi rebels kill dozens of Sudanese troops in Yemen ambush.” Middle East Eye. April 7, 2018. A convoy of Sudanese troops was lured into a trap by Houthi rebels in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah on Friday. The civil war continues to be rent by factionalism, ethnic divisions, and violent jihadism.

Adeola Opeyemi. “2,000 soldiers to join US-backed anti-terror exercise in Africa.” April 6, 2018. The United States and several Western allies set to participate in annual exercise, Flintlock. The exercise was set to include the largest amount of law enforcement participation in its history, indicating both the rise of terrorism and the subsequent emphasis on counterterror in the region. 

 Thomas Jocelyn. “US-led coalition says ‘much work remains to defeat’ to ISIS.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 6, 2018. Despite a statement from the White House earlier this week saying that ISIS is nearly defeated in Syria, the group remains moderately active in Syria and significantly so in Iraq.

Bill Roggio & Alexandra Gutowski. “US continues to disrupt Shabaab in Jilib, Somalia.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 6, 2018. The United States continues its efforts against Shabaab in Somalia this week with another strike against its known safe haven of Jilib. This most recent strike is the eleventh carried out by the United States in Somalia in 2018.

Caleb Weiss. “French forces confirm joint operation against Islamic State-loyal militants.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 5, 2018. French forces confirmed a second joint operation with Tuareg forces of Nigeria against Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. The French continue to support efforts in Niger, Mali, ad Burkina Faso against Islamic-State loyal groups.

Paul D. Shinkman. “What Trump’s Syria Intervention Says About His Foreign Policy.” U.S. News & World Report. April 5, 2018. This article examines President Trump’s military interventions in Syria and extrapolates that the administration is likely to pursue military interventions, rather than diplomatic efforts in other global disputes with states such as Iran or North Korea. The article fails to adequately examine the distinct differences between the Syrian civil war and the threats posed by state actors such as North Korea.

Twitter suspends 1 million accounts over ‘terror promotion.’The Straits Times. April 5, 2018. Twitter has seen a decline in the number of accounts that it has had to suspend due to terror promotion, arguing that this decline indicates that its strict measures against such promotion have made the platform less desirable for terrorist propaganda. However, such a pronouncement highlights the effective use of social media by terrorist organizations to gain both ideological support and funding.

Rukmini Callimachi. “The ISIS Files.” The New York Times. April 4, 2018. A summary of thousands of files recovered after the fall of ISIS in Mosul. The documents reveal the organization’s efficient use of land and personnel to run a state that was almost purely internally funded, rather than externally funded as is often postulated.

 Sudha Ratan. “The Trump Administration’s New Afghan Problem: The Islamic State.” The Diplomat. April 3, 2018. The United States has encouraged talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to create lasting peace in the region. This is in part due to the rise of an Islamic State branch that has brought global jihad to a conflict that has historical been dominated by an “ethno-nationalist agenda.” The transnational nature of this ISIS branch has the potentially to create even further disruption in Afghanistan, a state already plagued by decades of jihad-induced violence.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski. “US strikes Shabaab in central Somalia.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 2, 2018. A U.S. strike against Shabaab last week reveals the breadth of both the al-Qaeda wing’s organization in the region as well as the scope of U.S. activity against the group. Although the United States has conducted ten strikes against Shabaab in 2018, it has not conducted any against the Islamic State in the region, supporting growing concerns about the resurgence of al-Qaeda.

Thomas Jocelyn. “Hamza bin Laden warns of Shiite expansion in the Middle East.” FDD’s Long War Journal. April 1, 2018. Al-Qaeda’s propaganda branch released a new recording of Hamza bin Laden, which included a warning about the spread of Shiism and the argument that the Saudi Kingdom is unfit to defend Islam’s holy sites from such expansion. Although al-Qaeda and Iran have been linked in the past, this video clearly emphasizes that the two are in opposition with regard to conflicts in the Middle East.

March 2018

Vanda Felbab-Brown. “Nigeria’s Troubling Counterinsurgency Strategy Against Boko Haram.” Foreign Affairs. March 30, 2018. Felbab-Brown examines Boko Haram’s continued insurgency in Northeast Nigeria, and highlights the Nigerian military’s brutal counterinsurgency tactics as troubling factors in the country’s war against the militant group.

17 Dead, over a Thousand Injured After Palestinians Clash with IDF on Gaza Border.” The Jerusalem Post. March 30, 2018. Land Day protests turned violent, and the conflict provided cover for terrorist activity, with two terrorists neutralized by the IDF over the course of the protest. The violent clash continues to demonstrate that a settlement between the two sides remains unlikely, and continued conflict is likely to breed further terrorist activity, as it has in areas of conflict like Syria and Yemen.    

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski. “American forces kill senior al Qaeda leader in Libya.” FDD’s Long War Journal. March 28, 2018. An airstrike on March 24 killed senior al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb leader, Musa Abu Dawud. Dawud is believed to have been active within the al-Qaeda since as early as 1992.

C. Anthony Pfaff and Patrick Granfield. “How (Not) to Fight Proxy Wars.” The National Interest. March 27, 2018. This article highlights the risks associated with great powers providing support to proxy states in order to pursue their own national security interests. It emphasizes the fact that proxies shift towards bolder and escalatory behavior with the support of a great power benefactor, and therefore, states considering potential intervention should evaluate this likely effect on the proxy conflict. 

Nathan Jennings. “Is America Winning to Lose in Afghanistan?RealClear Defense. March 27, 2018. With the use of historical case studies as evidence, Jennings discusses the possibility that despite the possibility of a tactical win in Afghanistan, it is likely that the United States will not be able to create a strong democratic nation upon its withdrawal, ultimately experiencing a long-term loss in the region.

Sofia Patel. “The Counterterrorism Yearbook 2018.” ASPI: The Strategist. March 27, 2018. This article examines the three main factors that defined terrorism in 2017 – the fall of the IS caliphate and its return to an insurgency structure, IS activity in South East Asia, and the resurgence of al-Qaeda. It then goes on to highlight potential threats for the coming year, focusing on the threat of IS in its post-caliphate state.

Carter F. Smith and Joshua Harms. “The Threat of Street Gangs, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, and Domestic Terrorist/Extremist Groups with Military-Trained Members.” Small Wars Journal. March 23, 2018. Smith and Harms examine the role of military-trained gang members during U.S. wartimes. They highlight the threats that these members pose and their disruptive influence on both military institutions and the communities that rely on such institutions. It examines one of the many angles associated with modern domestic terrorism. 

Caleb Weiss. “Houthi leader again promises to take part in any future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.” FDD’s Long War Journal. March 23, 2018. Houthi leader, Abdel Malek al Houthi, again reiterated that the Houthis in Yemen would send fighters to support Hezbollah in the event of a new war with Israel. This is part of continued rhetoric supporting the larger Islamic umma in the face of “American hegemony” and Israel.

February 2018

Iraq court sentences 16 Turkish women to death for joining Islamic State.” Middle East Eye. February 25, 2018. The aftermath of ISIS’ presence in Iraq remains tumultuous as the women and children who surrendered following ISIS defeat begin to be sentenced for their involvement with the terror group. Human rights watch is concerned that many of these trials and sentences are unjust. 

Amy Held. “110 Girls Missing In Latest Suspected Boko Haram Attack, Says Nigerian Government.” NPR. February 25, 2018. In an attack similar to that of 2014, more than 100 girls were abducted by members of Boko Haram. Despite regular reassurance from the government that Boko Haram has been defeated in Nigeria, the terrorist organization remains active in the region, killing and abducting many thousand civilians since its initial 2009 insurgency.

 Twin car bombings kill nearly 40 in Somalia’s Mogadishu.” Al Jazeera News. February 24, 2018. Disrupting the relative calm since the December attacks on a Somalian police academy and the deadly November truck bombings, two car bombings claimed by al-Shabaab killed 38 people in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu.

Dozens killed or wounded in south Yemen suicide attacks: Witnesses.” Middle East Eye. February 24, 2018. Attacks on an anti-terrorism camp in South Yemen continue to highlight the complexity of the state-wide conflict. The division between southern separatists and President Hadi continues to complicate the devastating civil war.

Islamic State militants kill two policemen in attack on Iraq oil field.” Middle East Eye. February 24, 2018. An attack on Iraqi oil fields by ISIS militants signifies that despite the large-scale defeat of the group in Iraq, pockets of the jihadists remain active within the state.

Mohammed Mukhashaf. “At least 14 dead in attack on Yemen counter-terrorism base.” Reuters. February 24, 2018. Islamic State claimed suicide attacks in southern Yemen, emphasizing that the country’s destructive and chaotic civil war has allowed the state to become a haven for terrorism.

At US urging, Pakistan to be placed on terrorism-financing list.” The Straits Times. February 24, 2018. US pressure has encouraged the Financial Action Task Force to return Pakistan to the list of nations that fail to do their part in countering the funding of terrorism. On the list from 2012-2015, Pakistan fears that its likely return to the list in June will increase its international isolation and devastate its already struggling economy.

Multiple Attacks Across Afghanistan, ISIS and Taliban Claim Responsibility.” RealClear Defense. February 24, 2018. ISIS and the Taliban claimed responsibility for a series of near-simultaneous attacks across Afghanistan. Targets included soldiers in the western Farah province and security personnel in Kabul and the southern Helmand province. 

Bill Roggio. “As security in Farah worsens, Taliban stage deadly attack.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 24, 2018. A Taliban raid on an Afghan military base in Farah killed more than 20 Afghan soldiers. The raid signifies the increasingly desperate security situation in Farah, a province directly threatened by the Taliban in late 2016.

Daniel Gouré. “The Key to Success in Afghanistan Is Logistics.” RealClear Defense. February 23, 2018. Gouré argues that without the necessary logistics, Afghanistan is unlikely to experience a lasting increase in its national security. While he acknowledges the positive potential of the National Maintenance Strategy contract, he recognizes that the contract will not be effective immediately and Afghanistan will continue to suffer the effects of poor logistics.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowksi. “US kills four Shabaab jihadists in Somalia airstrike.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 22, 2018. A US airstrike in Somalia killed four members of the Shabaab terrorist organization. The al-Qaeda branch has persisted in the region despite African Union and US efforts to defeat the group over the past decade.

Thomas Joscelyn. “Analysis: ISIS hasn’t been defeated.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 22, 2018. Despite the Pentagon’s pivot away from terrorism towards the intra-state threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, ISIS and al-Qaeda remain active and ready to take advantage of a weakened US presence. Joscelyn warns that the United States cannot “wish away” the threat of terrorism, and despite the importance of state threats, terrorism should remain a primary national security concern.

 Anton Mardsov. “Al-Qaeda could stand to gain from changing Syrian situation.” Al-Monitor. February 22, 2018. As with Yemen, divisions among the major groups in Syria provide an opportunity for al-Qaeda to strengthen its presence and influence in the region. 

Caleb Weiss. “French soldiers killed by IED in northern Mali.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 21, 2018. Despite French, G5, and UN efforts, al-Qaeda’s branch in Mali remains persistent in the region. The group’s continued prominence in the region reemphasizes the general persistence of terrorism in the face of territorial losses to coalition forces.

Yemen clashes leave 27 dead as army battles al-Qaeda.” Middle East Eye. February 18, 2018. Yemeni forces fighting al-Qaeda in the state’s southeast lost 8 service members, while 19 members of al-Qaeda were killed in the clash. The clash demonstrates the growth of militant groups in Yemen as the state continues to be devastated by civil war.

Battle to free Mosul of ISIS ‘intellectual terrorism.” The Straits Times. February 17, 2018. Although the Iraqi city was militarily freed from ISIS last year, its inhabitants are still coping with the brainwashing brought on by three years of the militants’ rule. Islamic scholars aim to educate groups of people who can go on to educate others as a method of combatting ISIS ideology within the city.

Bill Roggio. “Taliban still intent on ruling Afghanistan after ‘peaceful’ message to US.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 17, 2018. Despite touting its new letter as an extension of peace, the most recent letter from the Taliban to the United States continues to emphasize that in the wake of a U.S. withdrawal, it does not seek a coalition government with the current rulers of Afghanistan, instead viewing itself as the people’s rightful representatives.

Arnel David. “Winning the War of Perceptions in Afghanistan & Beyond.” RealClear Defense. February 16, 2018. As the Taliban continues to win the war of perceptions in Afghanistan, David argues that Afghan security forces, with support from the United States, must shift strategies to win the fight in the ‘information space,’ rather than simply focusing on the physical war on the ground.

Kimberly Dozier. “US Demands Pakistan Arrest “Hit List” of Top Haqqani and Taliban Leaders.” The Cipher Brief. February 15, 2018. Tensions continue to mount between the Trump administration and Islamabad as the United States claims that Pakistan is not doing its best to detain top terrorist leaders and Pakistani leaders claim that the United States refuses to aid in its efforts.

Rhys Dubin. “The Post-Islamic State Marshall Plan That Never Was.” Foreign Policy. February 15, 2018. Although the $30 billion pledged at the Iraqi reconstruction conference was more than expected, it still falls short of the estimated $88 billion necessary to rebuild vital infrastructure in post-Islamic State Iraq.

Caleb Weiss. “20 jihadists killed or captured in French raids in northern Mali.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 15, 2017. Emphasizing that the fight against extremism in Africa remains a vital front in war on global terrorism, French forces killed or captured 20 jihadis in the most recent of its ongoing operations in the region.

Bill Roggio & Phil Hegseth. “Pakistani terror groups launch multiple attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 14, 2018. Despite tougher talk from the United States, two state-sponsored terror groups located in Pakistan launched attacks on the Western edge of Indian territory approximately 30 miles from the Pakistani border. Although the United States has pressured Paksitan to cut support for these groups, the Pakistani military continues active involvement and coordination with their activities.

Denmark boosts terror-prevention efforts in the Middle East.” CPH Post Online. February 14, 2018. In an acknowledgement of the depth of radicalism within some Middle Eastern communities, Denmark has committed funds for a pilot program that hopes to eliminate some o the root causes of early radicalism in younger generations.

Tara Copp. “Terrorism challenges in Africa take backseat in U.S. to other threats.” Military Times. February 13, 2018. Although the United States has increased its activity in Africa to counter growing terrorist threats from the region, AFRICOM remains underfunded, limiting the extent to which forces in the region can effectively combat regional extremism.

Javid Ahmad. “The Major Flaws in Afghanistan’s Intelligence War.” National Interest. February 12, 2018. Ahmad discusses several major flaws in Afghanistan’s security forces, including corruption, a lack of coordination between their operative and intelligence-gathering branches, and ‘meddling’ from Afghan political figures.

Mike Gallagher. “In Afghanistan, Hard Is Not Hopeless – but Time Is Running Out.” RealClear Defense. February 12, 2018. President Trump’s Afghanistan strategy has created new optimism amongst Afghani leadership, despite the ongoing challenges facing the coalition effort.

Thomas Jocelyn. “US terror designations expose 3 international facilitators for Islamic State.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 10, 2018. The United States continues to take action against the Islamic State, this time designating three facilitators that highlight the organization’s operation in the Philippines, Turkey, and Somalia.

Thomas Joscelyn. “Pakistani Taliban claims 2 suicide bombings.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 4, 2018. The Pakistani Taliban remains active in the region, claiming two suicide bombings in recent days.

Bill Roggio. “Taliban promotes Abu Bakr Siddique training camp.” FDD’s Long War Journal. February 3, 2018. The Afghan Taliban released an almost twenty-minute video promoting a jihadi training camp in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s continued promotion of such training facilities reveals that the Taliban is continuing to recruit and train new jihadis despite efforts by the Afghan military and Coalition forces to destroy these sites.

Nicholas Grossman. “The U.S. Isn’t Winning in Afghanistan – And That’s Okay.” Arc Digital. February 2, 2018. Grossman argues that the United States should focus on maintaining the status quo in Afghanistan in order to prevent escalation, rather than focusing on a WWII style victory.

Shlomi Eldar. “US adds Hamas political leader to terrorist list.” Al-Monitor. February 2, 2018. By adding Hamas’ political leader to its list of global terrorists, the United States is indicating that it is no longer accepting the artificial separation between Hamas’ political and military branches.

Rod Nordland. “A Visit to the Tense Front Line Between Kurds and Turks.” New York Times. February 1, 2018. Despite concerns that Turkish actions in Afrin will result in an American withdrawal from Syria and removal of support from its Kurdish allies, the front-line commander in Manbij, Syria remains confident that the United States will continue to support the Kurds in the region.

Seth G. Jones. “The State of the Afghan War.” RealClear Defense. February 1, 2018. By assessing the state of the Afghan war through population control and population support, Jones argues that the war is likely a draw. Although the Taliban has gained control of territory, it is largely unpopulated, and although many Afghans are unhappy with the Kabul government, most would prefer it to the governance of the Taliban.

January 2018

Bill Roggio. “US officials estimate Taliban strength at a minimum of 60,000 fighters.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 31, 2018. Taliban strength is currently estimated around 60,000 fighters, a number three times as large as the 2011 estimation. Roggio recognizes the lack of distinction between the Haqqani network and the Taliban and reminds U.S. officials that ‘hope is not a strategy.’

Romany Shaker. “US designates Egypt-based HASM and Liwa al-Thawra as terrorist groups.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 31, 2018. In a sign of solidarity with Egypt in its battle against terrorism, the United States recognized two Egyptian groups, thought to be offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorist organizations.

Phil Hegseth. “Northern offensives conducted by Afghan Army achieve impermanent gains.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 31, 2018. Despite reporting gains against the Taliban, victories by the Afghan Army are not creating lasting security improvement in the region.

Saudi-led coalition says Yemen government must listen to southern separatists.” Middle East Eye. January 29, 2018. Southern separatists continue to clash with the Saudi-led coalition that supports ousted President Hadi. Although the two groups had previously worked together against rebels in the North, their division adds another dimension to the already complex situation in Yemen.

Government air raids kill 33 civilians in northwest Syria, says monitor.” Middle East Eye. January 29, 2018. Government forces continue to fight against militants in the northwest province of Idlib, the last contested Syrian province. Russia’s peace conference also took place, despite the opposition’s refusal to attend and claims that the conference is merely a play to push the Russian agenda.

US lifts ban on refugees from 11 countries.” Middle East Eye. January 29, 2018. The United States has lifted its ban on refugees from eleven countries, although new applicants will face tougher security measures than in the past.

Turkey detains over 300 for ‘terror propaganda’ against Syrian operation.” Middle East Eye. January 29, 2018. Turkey’s government has detained more than three hundred people since the beginning of their offensive against the YPG in Syria on January 20. Officials claim the detainees have spread propaganda against the offensive in Afrin.

Christopher Carbone. “Military defeat of ISIS can be ‘measured in weeks,’ top US general says.” Fox News. January 29, 2018. CENTCOM General Joseph Votel says a military defeat of ISIS can be measured in weeks, as 98% of its previously held land has been recovered. Despite the promising military success, officials warn that the group’s worldwide defeat is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

Thomas Joscelyn. “Islamic State branch claims attack on Afghan military academy.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 29, 2018. In the third deadly attack in Kabul in the past few days, Islamic State militants conducted an attack against the Marshal Fahim National Defense University. At least 11 Afghani service members were killed.

Friendly fire kills 11 as Iraqi forces call in US-led air strike.” Middle East Eye. January 28, 2018. A U.S.-led air strike killed 11 friendly forces in Iraq as the police force failed to communicate with an army detachment before entering al-Baghdadi. Although Iraq officially declared victory over ISIS last month, it remains engaged in the rounding up of remaining ISIS members.

Thomas Joscleyn. “Al Qaeda head blames Islamists for failure of Arab uprisings.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 26, 2018. Deviating from UBL’s initial response to the 2010-11 Arab uprisings, Zawahiri laments the willingness of many Islamists to compromise their ideals in order to pacify the West and gain power within their states.

Death of a Leader: Where next for Yemen’s GPC after murder of Saleh?Middle East Eye. January 23, 2017. Saleh’s December death left his party without a leader or a plan for its future. While some GPC members have fled to the South, many have switched sides proclaiming allegiance to the Houthis. The continued fluidity of Yemeni politics indicates that a resolution to the civil war is nowhere in sight.

Turkey arrests scores for ‘terror propaganda’ as it presses Afrin assault.” Middle East Eye. January 23, 2017. In a clear demonstration of the complexity of fighting terror in the Middle East, Ankara has cracked down on protests against its Afrin assault against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG. Ankara claims the group is a branch of the PKK, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Al Qaeda calls for attacks on Jews and Americans ‘everywhere’ over Jerusalem.” Middle East Eye. January 23, 2017. Khalid Batarfi, a senior leader of al-Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula branch, declared that it was the duty of all Muslims to kill Jews and Americans in response to President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. In an eighteen-minute video, Batarfi called Trump’s decision “a declaration of a new Jewish-Crusader war.”

Jared Keller. “The Pentagon Is Woefully Unprepared for the Global War on Terror’s African Front.” Task & Purpose. January 23, 2018. Terrorism in Africa is on the rise as fighters from Syria and Iraq return to their homelands. The U.S.’ AFRICOM is both underprepared and underfunded for a front that is an ‘operational nightmare’ due to fragile states and central governments that don’t actively control their territory.

Roland Benedikter and Ismaila Ouedraogo. “Burkina Faso and a Strategy to Counter Terrorism in West Africa.” International Peace Institute. January 22, 2018. The growing threat of terrorism in Burkina Faso is a concrete case study for the continued threat of extremism in West Africa. Poverty, fragile governments, and lack of education all currently contribute to increasing radicalism and extremism within the region.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski. “Afghan and Coalition forces prepare for 2018 offensive against the Taliban.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 22, 2018. Although 2017 has been deemed a success for the Afghan forces, the Taliban achieved a large number of its stated objectives and currently controls or contests approximately forty percent of Afghanistan. Although Afghan forces have progressed, they will be unlikely to defeat the Taliban, particularly if it continues to enjoy support from and safe haven in Pakistan.

Saudi coalition announces $1.5bn in new aid for war-torn Yemen.” Middle East Eye. January 22, 2017. In response to UN calls for increased aid to Yemen, the Saudi coalition commits new humanitarian aid funds. The crisis in Yemen is perhaps the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and aid is necessary to prevent the state from descending further into disarray and creating a safe haven for burgeoning and recovery extremists.

Richard N. Nass. “The Pakistan conundrum.” The Strategist. January 18, 2017. Noting that the Pakistani and American agendas will never overlap, Nass recommends that the United States not drop Pakistan entirely, but rather closely monitor humanitarian and economic aid. He cautions against the possibility of Pakistan becoming a failed state or aligning too closely with China against India.

Britain and Italy to bolster troop presence in Africa’s Sahel.” The Citizen. January 18, 2017. In an effort to stem the flow of African migrants threatening to destabilizing some European states, Britain and Italy have both committed greater resources to aid the counterterror efforts in the Sahel region. Britain’s commitment will focus on Mali, while Italy’s will re-energize efforts in Niger.

Toby Dershowitz and Gardner Lange. “The Murder of a Terrorism Prosecutor: What Alberto Nisman Continues to Teach Us.” RealClear Defense. January 18, 2018. Although terrorism is commonly associated with non-state actors in the 21st century (i.e. al-Qaeda and ISIS), Iran’s role in sponsoring the terrorist group, Hezbollah, cannot be ignored. Just as the United States has recently held Pakistan responsible for its, at best, passive acceptance of extremism, Iran also should be held responsible for its continued support of Hezbollah.

Levi Maxey. “Terrorists Stalk Dark Web for Deadlier Weaponry.” The Cipher Brief. January 17, 2018. While large terrorist organizations will likely continue to obtain weaponry through traditional means, lone wolves and terrorist cells are increasingly turning to the dark web in order to obtain illegal weapons or weapon-making technologies. Although vigilance in patrolling social media can help prevent such transactions, it is more difficult to monitor the transaction of knowledge and design files intended to produce weapons and explosives.

Jane Nyingi. “West Africa: Sahel Zone – New Operation to Fight Terrorism.” Deutsche Welle. January 16, 2018. Regional expert Paul Melly provides insight into the role of a new joint counterterrorism force in Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.

Catherine Besteman and Stephanie Savell. “Where in the World Is the U.S. Military? Everywhere.” U.S. News & World Report. January 12, 2018. Although presenting U.S counterterror efforts in a negative light, Besteman and Savell highlight the active and growing U.S. military presence across the globe, specifically noting its rise in Africa.

Alex Deep. “Balance of Power, Balance of Resolve: How Iran Is Competing with the United States in the Middle East.” Modern War Institute. January 12, 2018. Deep argues that Iran is able to continuing balancing the United States in the Middle East because the United States is unwilling to utilize its entire military force in the region. Therefore, Iran is balancing against those forces that the United States is willing to deploy rather than the entire U.S. military.

Imran Shamsunahar. “The Dhofar War and the Myth of ‘Localized’ Conflicts.” RealClear Defense. January 12, 2018. Shamsunahar uses the Dhofar War as a case study to challenge the assumption that today’s conflicts can be fought as “hermetically sealed conflicts” Rather, he raises the idea that even those wars that seem to be localized, involve multi and transnational influences that impact their outcomes.

Hundreds protest in Tunis, as nearly 800 detained by authorities.” Middle East Eye. January 12, 2018. Large protests against the new Tunisian budget have resulted in the detention of almost 800 people, many of whom are between the ages of 15 and 20. These protests are particularly significant because the 2011 Arab Spring began in Tunisia.

Daniel L. Davis. “Afghanistan: Perpetual War Without Success or End.” RealClear Defense. January 11, 2018. Continuing the debate about U.S strategy in Afghanistan, Davis pessimistically argues that the United States has no hope of achieving victory in the Middle Eastern nation and calls for an end to such efforts.

Amandla Thomas-Johnson. “Britain to join France in West Africa counter-terrorism mission.” Middle East Eye. January 11, 2018. Britain is looking to deploy military helicopters and surveillance aircraft to aid the French counter-terrorism mission in West Africa. Both nations hope such efforts help to prevent ‘obscure’ countries from becoming havens from which terrorists can launch attacks on Western homelands.

Nigeria army averts suicide attack by three girls in Borno State.” Africa News. January 10, 2018. Members of the Nigerian army shot and killed two of three potential suicide attackers, detaining the third. The cases of Boko Haram using children, particularly girls, for suicide missions have continued to increase despite President Buhari’s insistence that the group has been restricted to the Sambisa forest.

“Jihad’s New Home.” The Week. January 6, 2018. A brief overview of the increasing shift of Islamic extremism from the Middle East to Africa, particularly those nations bogged down in civil wars or popular unrest.

James LaPorta. “U.S. wants ‘decisive action’ against terrorism, Pentagon says of Pakistan.” United Press International. January 9, 2018. Following continued remarks by President Trump concerning Islamabad’s support for terrorism, the United States has frozen military and security funds headed for Pakistan until ‘decisive action’ is taken against Taliban and Haqqani leadership.

Ian Wilkie. “Playing ‘Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi.’” RealClear Defense. January 9, 2018. In a brief but combative text, Wilkie argues that the United States has historically and continues to put morals by the wayside by funding Salafi extremists in order to further its larger, global strategies.

Anthony Cowden. “The New Afghanistan Strategy: Some Questions.” RealClear Defense. January 7, 2018. Cowden poses some questions to guide analysis of President Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy.

Jakkie Ciliers. “What Needs to be Done to Make Africa Politically Stable.” Fair Observer. January 6, 2018. Ciliers argues that economic reform with an emphasis on employment, a return to intelligence and policing rather than a military approach to counter-terror, and efforts to combat corruption will help African nations to move towards effective democracy while avoiding the spiral towards extremism.

Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci. “Wanted Dead or Alive: The Frustrating, Failing Hunt for ISIS Leader Baghdadi.” The Daily Beast. January 6, 2018. Speckhard and Shajkovci examine the difficulty of conducting a manhunt for terrorist leaders in the Middle East, specifically citing the dedication of enemy intelligence officers and effective use of terrain and disguise as the reasons for the continued safety of Baghdadi. The article goes on to argue that killing Baghdadi is necessary for the defeat of the larger ISIS brand.

Robert M. Cassidy. “The Illusion of Strategy in Afghanistan: No Change in Pakistan’s Malice.” The Globalist. January 6, 2018. Cassidy reveals Pakistan’s critical role in the ongoing war in Afghanistan and then proceeds to briefly review several books on the subject.

Pakistan, the Endlessly Troublesome Ally.” The New York Times. January 5, 2018. A brief analysis of the complicated debate concerning U.S. aid to Pakistan that highlights both Pakistan’s support for extremists and its usefulness in America’s fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Paula Thornhill and Mara Karlin. “The Chairman the Pentagon Needs.” War on the Rocks. January 5, 2018. Thornhill and Karlin examine the hot topic of TMM (trans-regional, multi-functional, and multi-domain) within the Department of Defense and question the validity of the assumption that TMM is indeed the warfare of the modern day and discuss the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in such an environment.

Sara Shayanian. “U.S. details continued military strikes against IS in Syria, Iraq.” United Press International. January 5, 2018. The United States continues to conduct military strikes against IS, even after the group has officially been defeated in Iraq. Despite being a relatively precise air campaign, the coalition has killed 817 civilians since 2014.

Thomas Jocelyn and Bill Roggio. “State Department designates 3 al Qaeda figures as global terrorists.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 4, 2018. The State Department has added three al-Qaeda operatives from Yemen, Somalia, and East Africa to its list of specially designated global terrorists. Such designations indicate the widespread nature of al-Qaeda in the region and that each branch is equally as destructive and dangerous as the core organization.

Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski. “2017: A record year for US counterterrorism strikes.” FDD’s Long War Journal. January 4, 2018. In a review of 2017’s airstrikes against terrorist organizations, Roggio and Gutowski conclude that Obama era policies have failed and President Trump is pursuing a ‘more muscular’ version of Obama’s targeted counterterrorism strategy.

Adam Weinstein and Michael Kugelman. “Pakistan’s Dangerous Slide to Extremism.” The National Interest. January 4, 2018 Weinstein and Kugelman discuss the idea that the recent sit-in in Islamabad is an indication that Pakistan is capitulating to extremists and is in danger of becoming a less tolerant and more terror-driven state.

Jack Detsch. “Pentagon surges weapons into Middle East terror fight.” Al-Monitor. January 3, 2018. Despite cuts to the State Department’s foreign military financing program, the Defense Department is using part of its $600 million increase in security assistance to provide weapons to U.S. allies in the Middle East to aid the fight against IS fighters fanning out as their base in Syria and Iraq is destroyed.