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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: It is far from clear that Al Qaida or ISIS can ever be fully defeated. The ISIS “caliphate” may be largely broken up, but substantial elements of both movements remain. New movements may emerge, and other movements may grow, and the demographic trends of Muslim-majority countries are a powerful warning that extremism may be a threat for decades to come.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Militant Islam
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: This is the third report in a three-part survey of metrics that address the fighting in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing challenge of extremism, and the trends in key causes of that extremism and regional instability.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Political stability, Civil Unrest
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Erol Yayboke, Sundar R. Ramanujam
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Thanks to the generous support and cooperation from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the CSIS Project on Prosperity and Development releases this new essay anthology, Sharpening Our Efforts: The Role of International Development in Countering Violent Extremism. As policymakers confront the ongoing challenge of radicalization and violent extremism, it is important that stakeholders and counterterrorism strategists recognize the critical role for development and other non-kinetic approaches to counter violent extremism (CVE). To that end, this new anthology takes a multidimensional role mapping out the role of soft power institutions in enabling lasting peace, prosperity, and global security.
  • Topic: Development, Foreign Aid, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Melissa Dalton
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: 2017 marked a significant shift in the two wars in Syria. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Coalition forces drove ISIS from its self-proclaimed caliphate capital in Raqqa, across northern Syria, and down the Euphrates River Valley. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, secured key population areas and strategic locations in the center and coast, and stretched to the eastern border to facilitate logistics and communications for Iranian-backed militias. In both wars, Syrian civilians have lost profoundly. They also have shown incredible resilience. Still, the outcome of both wars is inconclusive. Although major areas have been cleared of ISIS, SDF and Coalition forces are fighting the bitter remnants of ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. Enduring security in ISIS-cleared areas now depends on governance and restoration of services. Turkey’s intervention into Syrian Kurdish-controlled Afrin risks pulling the sympathetic Kurdish components of the SDF away from the counterterrorism and stabilization efforts in Syria’s east in order to fight Turkey, a U.S. ally. With a rumbling Sunni insurgency in pockets of Syria’s heartland, Assad and his supporters continue to pummel Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus and threaten Idlib. They are unleashing both conventional and chemical weapons on the remnants of Syrian opposition fighters and indiscriminately targeting civilians. The Trump administration now is attempting to connect the outcome of these two wars. The Obama administration tried similarly but ultimately prioritized the counter-ISIS mission. The drivers of the Syrian civil war and the ISIS war are rooted in the same problem: bad governance. Thus, a sensible resolution of both wars must address Syria’s governance. However, squaring U.S. policy goals with current operations and resources the United States has employed in Syria will require a degree of calibration, stitching together several lines of effort, and committing additional U.S. and international resources. Orchestrating this level of U.S. effort has proven elusive over the last six years.
  • Topic: Civil War, Violent Extremism, ISIS, Civilians
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: With President Donald Trump threatening to pull out of Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime ramping up its military campaign against rebels, and the Islamic State in decline, al Qaeda has attempted to resurge and reposition itself at the center of global Salafi-jihadist activity. Syria has been perhaps its most important prize. For some, al Qaeda’s cunning and concerted efforts in Syria and other countries highlight the group’s resilience and indicate its potential to resurge and rejuvenate. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that al Qaeda has largely failed to take advantage of the Syrian war. Confusion and finger-pointing have been rampant as individuals have clashed over ideology, territorial control, personalities, loyalty to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and command-and-control relationships. Al Qaeda’s struggles in Syria have also highlighted some weaknesses of al-Zawahiri. The al Qaeda leader has had difficulty communicating with local groups in Syria, been slow to respond to debates in the field, and discovered that some Salafi-jihadist fighters have brazenly disobeyed his guidance. As one Salafi-jihadist leader remarked, “The situation in Syria for the jihad is extremely dire.”
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Al Qaeda
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Olga Oliker
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Religious violence is surely as old as both faith and fighting themselves. In the Russian Federation, as elsewhere in the world, religious teachings and philosophies are used both to justify and combat violence. But what forms does this take, and with what implications for Russian society, Russian policy, and Russia's future? This volume examines the many ways in which religion and violence intersect in Russia, and offers recommendations for both policymakers and scholars as they chart paths forward. Presenting the results of original research by collaborative teams of Russian and western authors, it takes on topics from violent radical Islamic jihadism to religious propaganda employed by violent right-wing groups; from repression of religious communities to conflict within religious confessions. In each case, it offers not only new analysis, but prospective policy solutions to make Russia and Russians of all religions (and no religion) safer and more secure.
  • Topic: Religion, Violent Extremism, Violence, Repression, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue: Hezbollah and Iran have accumulated a substantial amount of weapons and fighters in Syria that pose a threat to the United States and its allies in the region. In response, Israel has conducted a growing number of strikes against Iranian, Hezbollah and other targets in Syria. An escalating war has the potential to cause significant economic damage, lead to high numbers of civilian casualties and internally displaced persons, and involve more countries in the region than did the 2006 Lebanon War. The stakes are high, making it critical for Washington to help prevent such an escalation.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Syrian War, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Shaan Shaikh, Ian Williams
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party and militant group with close ties to Iran and Syria’s Assad regime. It is the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor—aptly described as “a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state.”1 This is especially true with regard to its missile and rocket forces, which Hezbollah has arrayed against Israel in vast quantities. The party’s arsenal is comprised primarily of small, man-portable, unguided artillery rockets. Although these devices lack precision, their sheer number make them effective weapons of terror. According to Israeli sources, Hezbollah held around 15,000 rockets and missiles on the eve of the 2006 Lebanon War, firing nearly 4,000 at Israel over the 34-day conflict. Hezbollah has since expanded its rocket force, today estimated at 130,000 rounds.2 Hezbollah asserts that its rocket forces are primarily for deterrence—a means to retaliate against Israel in the event of conflict. In May 2006, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah explained “The purpose of our rockets is to deter Israel from attacking Lebanese civilians…The enemy fears that every time he confronts us, whenever there are victims in our ranks among Lebanese civilians, this will lead to a counter-barrage of our rockets, which he fears.”3 Indiscriminate rocket fire, particularly from small, easily transportable launchers makes the suppression of fire with airpower more challenging. This forces Israel to rely more heavily on ground forces in a conflict. Lacking any air force of its own, Hezbollah prefers ground wars in its own territory to bombardment from the skies. As Human Rights Watch notes, however, none of these arguments justifies targeting civilians under international law.4 The continued growth of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket forces is undesirable for several reasons. It may, for example, embolden the party to overstep Israeli red lines. Hezbollah’s push to acquire longer-ranged and precision-guided munitions could likewise spur Israel into preemptive action. Hezbollah’s weapons acquisition also raises the prospects for the proliferation of missile technology and know-how. According to Saudi and UAE officials, Hezbollah militants have worked with their Houthi forces in rocket development and launch divisions in Yemen.5 Hezbollah forces in Syria and Iraq similarly operate with various Shiite militias. Growing relations among these groups presents risks for the dissemination of missile technology and knowledge. The following is a summary compilation of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket arsenal. It is limited by the availability of public source information and does not cover certain topics such as rocket strategies, evolution, or storage locations. This brief instead focuses on the acquisition history, capabilities, and use of these forces.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Missile Defense, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The August 14 attack in London is the latest reminder that terrorism persists in the West more than a decade and a half after September 11, 2001. The United States continues to face a threat from right-wing, left-wing, and Islamic extremists, despite comments from some U.S. policymakers that terrorist groups have been defeated. Perhaps the most significant lesson from the London attack, however, is the resilience of the British public. They kept calm and carried on. The attacker was Salih Khater, a UK citizen from Birmingham who was in his late twenties. He drove a silver Ford Fiesta into a crowd of pedestrians and cyclists in London and then crashed it into a security barrier outside the Houses of Parliament. Eyewitness accounts were chilling. “I heard lots of screams and turned round,” remarked Barry Williams. “The car went on to the wrong side of the road to where cyclists were waiting at lights and ploughed into them.”1 The tactic—a vehicle used as a weapon—is all too familiar. Terrorists in the West have increasingly resorted to simple tactics, such as vehicles and knives, to kill civilians. Compared to previous incidents in the United Kingdom, Salih Khater’s August 14 attack was second-rate. He had been meandering around London for several hours, which suggests that the incident was not carefully planned. His tiny Ford Fiesta was no match for the barriers around the Houses of Parliament that are designed to stop attacks from 18-wheelers. And Khater failed to kill anyone, though he did injure several people. UK security agencies have conditioned their public to be prepared for plots and attacks. The United Kingdom’s recently-published counterterrorism strategy, CONTEST, argues that the country faces a significant, multidimensional threat from terrorists. According to data from the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, there were more failed, foiled, and completed attacks in the United Kingdom than anywhere else in the European Union in 2017.2 There were also more terrorist-related arrests in the UK in 2017 than in any previous year since 2001.3 Between December 2013 and May 2018, British intelligence and law enforcement agencies thwarted 25 plots from extreme Islamic groups.4 Most of these plots were inspired by the Islamic State and its ideology, rather than directed by Islamic State operatives.5 On March 22, 2017, for example, British-born Khalid Masood drove a sports utility vehicle into pedestrians crossing Westminster Bridge in London, killing three people. Masood then took two carving knives out of his vehicle and stabbed police officer Keith Palmer, killing him outside of Parliament. On May 22, 2017, Salman Abedi detonated an improvised explosive device in the foyer of Manchester Arena, killing 22 people; 10 of them were under 20 years old. On June 3, 2017, three men—Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane, and Youssef Zaghba—drove a van into London Bridge, killing two people. They then jumped out of the van and killed six more people using large knives. On September 15, 2017, an 18-year old Iraqi asylum seeker named Ahmed Hassan detonated a bomb using triacetone triperoxide (TATP) on a District line train at Parsons Green Underground station in London. Thirty people were treated for burn and other injuries.6 Right-wing terrorism has also been on the rise in the United Kingdom. On June 19, 2017, Darren Osborne, a 47-year old British man, drove a van into Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park Mosque, London, killing one person.7 On June 23, 2017, Marek Zakrocki, a known supporter of the far-right party Britain First, drove a vehicle into an Indian restaurant in London, injuring several people. He was armed with a kitchen knife and a baton-torch, and he told police: “I’m going to kill a Muslim. I’m doing this for Britain. This is the way I am going to help the country. You people can’t do anything. I am going to do it my way because that is what I think is right.”8 While there have been relatively few terrorist attacks in the United States recently, the United Kingdom—and Europe more broadly—have faced a more severe threat. The number of jihadist-related terrorist attacks in the European Union peaked in 2017 with 33 failed, foiled, and completed attacks. This number was up from 13 in 2016, 17 in 2015, and 2 in 2014. The geographic distribution of attacks also expanded. European Union countries experiencing jihadist-related terrorism now includes such countries as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.
  • Topic: National Security, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Europe Union
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Europe, England
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Right-wing extremism in the United States appears to be growing. The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017. The recent pipe bombs and the October 27, 2018, synagogue attack in Pittsburgh are symptomatic of this trend. U.S. federal and local agencies need to quickly double down to counter this threat. There has also been a rise in far-right attacks in Europe, jumping 43 percent between 2016 and 2017.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Domestic politics, Far Right
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Maxwell B. Markusen
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite hard-fought victories to retake Islamic State territory, there are three major signs that Islamic State militants are regrouping, taking advantage of ongoing instability, and refocusing their campaign against the Iraqi government.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Seth G. Jones, Boris Toucas, Maxwell B. Markusen
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Europe faces a significant threat from terrorism, particularly from Islamic extremists and far-right groups. Europe’s challenges with terrorism have largely gone unnoticed in the United States, whose strategy documents like the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Defense Strategy have shifted away from counterterrorism and toward competition with state competitors like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. In addition, Europe’s increasingly aggressive approach to terrorists—including prosecuting individuals for planning to travel abroad to join terrorist groups, censoring extremist Internet material, punishing Internet companies that fail to remove extremist material, and improving intelligence cooperation—have also largely gone unnoticed in the United States. This report takes a renewed look at Europe and compiles new data on the threat to Europe. It also examines the counterterrorism response by European governments, especially the United Kingdom and France.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Europe