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  • Author: Nicholas Tallant, Jesse Morton, Mitchell D. Silber, Scott Atran, Hoshang Waziri, Angel Gomez, Hammad Sheikh, Lucia Lopez-Rodriguez, Charles Rogan, Richard Davis, Amira Jadoon, Nakissa Jahanbani, Charmaine Willis, Nafees Hamid
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Between 2006 and 2012, two men working on opposite sides of the struggle between global jihadis and the United States faced off in New York City. Jesse Morton was the founder of Revolution Muslim, a group that proselytized—online and on New York City streets—on behalf of al-Qa`ida. Mitchell Silber led efforts to track the terrorist threat facing the city as the director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD. After serving a prison sentence for terrorist activity, Morton now works to counter violent extremism. In our feature article, they tell the inside story of the rise of Revolution Muslim and how the NYPD, by using undercover officers and other methods, put the most dangerous homegrown jihadi support group to emerge on U.S. soil since 9/11 out of business. As the Islamic State morphs into a ‘virtual caliphate,’ their case study provides lessons for current and future counterterrorism investigations. Five years ago this month, terror came to Boston, and Boston stood strong. Nicholas Tallant interviews William Weinreb and Harold Shaw on the lessons learned. Weinreb stepped down as Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in January 2018. He was the lead prosecutor of the 2015 investigation and trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Shaw has served as the Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Division since 2015. Between July and October 2017, a team of researchers conducted field interviews with young Sunni Arab men coming out from under Islamic State rule in the Mosul area. The resulting study by Scott Atran, Hoshang Waziri, Ángel Gómez, Hammad Sheikh, Lucía López-Rodríguez, Charles Rogan, and Richard Davis found that “the Islamic State may have lost its ‘caliphate,’ but not necessarily the allegiance of supporters of both a Sunni Arab homeland and governance by sharia law.” Amira Jadoon, Nakissa Jahanbani, and Charmaine Willis examine the evolving rivalry between the Islamic State and other jihadi groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Nafees Hamid profiles Junaid Hussain, a hacker from the United Kingdom, who until his death in August 2015 was the Islamic State’s most prolific English-language social media propagandist and terror ‘cybercoach.’
  • Topic: Terrorism, Law Enforcement, Counter-terrorism, Radicalization, Islamic State, Police, NYPD
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Knights, Brian Dodwell, Harun Maruf, Dan Joseph, Amira Jadoon, Sara Mahmood, Bennett Clifford, Seamus Hughes
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: After its pivot to insurgency, is the Islamic State losing power or preserving strength in Iraq? This is the research question posed by Michael Knights in this month’s cover article. Attack metrics, he writes, “paint a picture of an insurgent movement that has been ripped down to its roots,” but also one that is vigorously working to reboot by focusing “on a smaller set of geographies and a ‘quality over quantity’ approach to operations.” Knights warns that “the Iraqi government is arguably not adapting fast enough to the demands of counterinsurgency, suggesting the need for intensified and accelerated support from the U.S.-led coalition in order to prevent the Islamic State from mounting another successful recovery.” Our interview is with Mark Mitchell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, who was among the first U.S. soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11. Mitchell previously served as a Director for Counterterrorism on the National Security Council where he was intimately involved in significant hostage cases and recovery efforts in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia. He was also instrumental in establishing the framework for the landmark Presidential Policy Review of Hostage Policy. Dan Joseph and Harun Maruf, the authors of the recently published book Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally, explain why the group remains a significant threat inside Somalia. Amira Jadoon and Sara Mahmood examine recent plans circulated by the Pakistani Taliban under its new leader Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud to try to reverse the group’s decline. Bennett Clifford and Seamus Hughes document the case of Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab, a returned foreign fighter to the United States who pleaded guilty in October 2018 to material support to a terrorist organization. His case sheds new light on cross-border foreign fighter recruitment networks in the United States and Europe, and the potential threat they pose.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Taliban, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Conflict, Al Shabaab, Foreign Fighters
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iraq, Middle East, North Africa, Somalia, United States of America
  • Author: Ali Soufan, Paul Cruickshank, Don Rassler, Colleen McCue, Joseph T. Massengill, Dorothy Milbrandt, John Gaughan, Meghan Cumpston, Nicholas Blanford, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Sixteen years after 9/11, al-Qa`ida has a new figurehead (if not a new face) in the form of Hamza bin Ladin. On September 14, the group released an audio statement from Usama bin Ladin’s son calling for jihadis to double down on jihad in Syria and against what he depicted as an American-Russian-Shi`a conspiracy against Islam. It is not clear where Hamza, who is now in his late 20s, is currently based. So protective has al-Qa`ida been that the group has not circulated images of him since he was a child. In our cover article, Ali Soufan tells Hamza’s life story based on a wide range of sources, including recently declassified documents from Abbottabad. He argues that Hamza bin Ladin has not only emerged as al-Qa`ida’s leader in waiting, but is also the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement as the Islamic State’s fortunes wane. Soufan points out Hamza’s hardening rhetoric toward Shi`a may represent an effort to attract deflated Islamic State fighters back into the al-Qa`ida fold. In our interview, Brian Fishman, Facebook’s Counterterrorism Policy Manager, provides a detailed description of how Facebook is using artificial intelligence and a dedicated team of counterterrorism specialists to remove terrorism content from its platform. Given the emergence of a new generation of leadership within al-Qa`ida, it is critical to understand the evolving threat from the group in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Don Rassler outlines how arrest metrics in the mega-city of Karachi point to an uptick in activity by the resilient group. Colleen McCue, Colonel Joseph Massengill, Commander Dorothy Milbrandt, Lieutenant Colonel John Gaughan, and Major Meghan Cumpston outline how the Islamic State is “weaponizing children.” Nicholas Blanford reports from Lebanon on offensives this past summer by the Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah against Sunni militants in the country. Aymenn al-Tamimi draws on newly obtained documents to examine the Islamic State’s posture toward Kurds.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Forces, Counter-terrorism, Radicalization, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Youth, Hezbollah, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia, Middle East, Lebanon