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  • Author: Amira Jadoon, Andrew Mines
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Since its official formation in January 2015, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan has risen to prominence as one of its most dangerous affiliates, making it one of the world’s top four deadliest militant organizations in 2018. Islamic State Khorasan’s (ISK) ascendency, however, has not come without heavy costs. Since 2015, a variety of state-led operations against ISK have inflicted substantial manpower and leadership losses upon the group across Afghanistan and Pakistan. This report is the first to conduct a systematic review of operations against ISK between 2015 and 2018 to answer the following questions: what is the nature and level of manpower losses incurred by ISK in various campaigns against the group? How have these operations altered the level of the ISK threat, and what do they reveal about ISK’s militant base? Finally, how have these operations affected ISK’s operational capacity? This report draws on open-source materials to assess the above questions, and provides detailed information on the various state-led operations against ISK in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the group’s associated costs in terms of losses of both leadership and other ISK-linked individuals. As this report demonstrates, intense targeting of ISK in both countries has resulted in substantial losses for the group; between 2015 and 2018, ISK’s losses amounted to the killing, capture, or surrender of well over 10,000 ISK-linked individuals and over 500 militants in leadership roles, predominantly in Afghanistan. A parallel examination of the group’s losses and its operational activity indicates that while state-led operations have curtailed ISK’s overall number of attacks and its geographical expansion, the group has retained its ability to conduct highly lethal attacks, as evidenced by recently claimed attacks in Kabul in late February and early March 2020. The report’s findings also imply that one of ISK’s key strengths, which has allowed it to survive the onslaught of state-led operations, is its access to a steady supply of experienced militants on both sides of the border that allows it to replace its top leaders and replenish its human capital.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia
  • Author: Andrew Zammit, Jason Warner, Thomas Renard , Tim Lister
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: It was one of the most ambitious and innovative international terror plots ever seen. In July 2017, Australian police arrested two brothers in Sydney who had attempted to get a bomb on board an Etihad plane flying from Sydney to Abu Dhabi carrying around 400 passengers and were separately planning to carry out a poison gas attack inside Australia with an improvised chemical dispersion device. The two brothers had been guided by Islamic State operatives in Syria, who successfully arranged for a partially constructed bomb to be air-mailed from Turkey to Australia. In our feature article, Andrew Zammit draws on “newly available information resulting from the successful prosecution of the Sydney-based plotters” to provide the most comprehensive account to date on how the plot developed and what it reveals about the evolution of the international terror threat posed by the Islamic State. Donald Yamamoto, the United States Ambassador to Somalia, is featured in our ongoing “A View from the CT Foxhole” series. The interview was conducted by Jason Warner in front of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Attacks in London in November 2019 and February 2020 by two convicted terrorists released from prison has created a surge of concern about terrorist recidivism. But Thomas Renard points out that academic research undertaken thus far suggests terrorists are unlikely to relapse into violent extremism. His review of the judiciary files of 557 jihadi terrorist convicts in Belgium, since 1990, finds that less than five percent reengaged in terrorist activities. Drawing on nearly a dozen reporting trips to Ukraine between 2014 and 2019, Tim Lister examines the nexus between far-right extremists in Ukraine and the United States. He writes: “In recent years, some Americans and Europeans drawn to various brands of far-right nationalism have looked to Ukraine as their field of dreams: a country with a well-established, trained, and equipped far-right militia … that has been actively engaged in the conflict against Russian-backed separatists.” He notes that in some instances, “U.S.-based individuals have spoken or written about how the training available in Ukraine might assist them and others in their paramilitary-style activities at home.”
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Far Right
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Australia, Somalia, United States of America