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  • Author: Don Rassler, Emily Corner, Paul Gill, Michael Horton, Jason Warner, Paul Cruickshank
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: The deadly attack at Fort Lauderdale airport earlier this month by an individual claiming to have been influenced by voices he heard and to have acted on behalf of the Islamic State has renewed attention on the nexus between terrorism and mental health. In our cover article, Emily Corner and Paul Gill explore what they argue are complex and often misunderstood links. Their preliminary findings show that the proportion of attackers in the West possibly influenced by the Islamic State with a history of psychological instability is about the same as the rate of such instability in the general population, though the rate is higher than in the general population if Islamic State-directed attacks are excluded. This is in line with their previous findings that group-based terrorists are much less likely to have mental disorders than lone-actor terrorists. They also question the degree to which lone-actor terrorists with mental disorders are symptomatic at the time of attacks. Lone-actor terrorists with mental disorders, they have found, are just as likely to engage in rational planning prior to attacks as those without. Their research has also found a significantly higher rate of schizophrenia among lone-actor terrorists than in the general population. There is a long-running debate about whether this condition could make individuals of all ideological persuasions less inhibited in moving from radical thought to radical action. In a joint interview, Peter Edge, Acting Deputy Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director of Europol, focus on the challenges of identifying, tracking, and interdicting foreign terrorist fighters and steps being taken to deepen transatlantic cooperation. Michael Horton argues that AQAP’s deepening ties to anti-Houthi forces in Yemen’s civil war is making the terrorist group even more resilient and difficult to combat. Don Rassler examines the contest between the United States and jihadis on drones and drone countermeasures. Jason Warner looks at the three newly self-declared affiliates of the Islamic State in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Al Qaeda, Drones, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, United States of America
  • Author: Jason Warner, Caleb Weiss, Andrew McGregor, Daisy Muibu, Benjamin P. Nickels, Paul Cruickshank, Mohammed Hafez, Colin P. Clarke, Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: The Islamic State’s caliphate project has ended in abject failure, with the group now holding a small vanishing portion of the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq. In our cover article, Mohammed Hafez argues the Islamic State is just the latest example of a “fratricidal” jihadi group predestining its own defeat by its absolutism, over-ambition, domineering behavior, and brutality. He argues that the Islamic State’s puritanical ideology blinded it to learning lessons from the GIA’s defeat in Algeria in the 1990s and al-Qa`ida in Iraq’s near defeat in the 2000s. In all three cases, these jihadi groups “managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” because of their innate inability to show restraint and pragmatism. Our interview is with Angela Misra, the co-founder of The Unity Initiative (TUI), a British Muslim community group widely viewed as one of the most effective in countering violent extremism. Misra describes her increasingly high-stakes efforts to transform the mindset of women convicted of terrorist offenses and recent female returnees from the Islamic State. With the Islamic State recently moving toward embracing combat roles for women, she warns there could be a surge in female terrorism in Western countries. Colin Clarke and Phillip Smyth document how the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is working to transform Shi`a foreign fighter networks into transnational proxy forces capable of fighting both asymmetric and conventional wars. Andrew McGregor outlines the security challenges in Libya’s southern Fezzan region, warning it could emerge as a major new base for jihadi operations with serious implications for European security. Jason Warner and Caleb Weiss look at why the Islamic State has, so far, failed to pose a significant challenge to al-Shabaab. In the wake of a double-truck bombing last month in Mogadishu that killed over 350, Daisy Muibu and Benjamin Nickels examine the local expertise factor in al-Shabaab’s increasingly deadly IED campaign.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Jihad, Al Shabaab, Foreign Fighters, IED
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Libya, Somalia
  • Author: Michael A. Sheehan, Geoff D. Porter
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: IN HIS STATE OF THE UNION on January 28, 2014, President Barack Obama's speech focused on domestic issues, but singled out Africa, specifically mentioning Somalia and Mali, in reference to the evolution of the al-Qa`ida threat, the emergence of al-Qa`ida affiliates and the need for the United States to continue to work with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States
  • Author: Erich Marquardt
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Seven and a half years after 9/11, the global community faces a resilient and dangerous al- Qa'ida. Despite immense efforts to understand al-Qa'ida, informed analysts disagree widely over its actual strength. Some consider the group a visceral and literal threat to Western civilization. Others proclaim the organization is irrelevant given the isolation of its senior leaders in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Finally, some point to al-Qa'ida's failure to prosecute meaningful attacks in the United States since 9/11, and the absence of successful large attacks in the West since the London bombings in 2005, as evidence of the organization's decline.
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Iran, London
  • Author: David H. Shinn
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: After the september 11 attacks, the Bush administration's foreign policy toward Somalia focused primarily on counterterrorism. This focus was a result of Somalia's proximity to the Middle East, U.S. concern that al-Qa'ida might relocate to the country, a history of terrorist bombings targeting Western interests in nearby Kenya and Tanzania and early contact between al-Qa'ida and individuals in Somalia. Although ties exist between al-Qa'ida and Somalia's al-Shabab militant group, the overwhelming objective of U.S. policy in Somalia should not be confronting international terrorist activity. Instead, the United States should contribute to creating a moderate government of national unity in Somalia, which offers the best hope of minimizing Somali links to international terrorism. Long-term U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa will not be served by a policy that is consumed with military action to the detriment of supporting economic development and a broad based Somali government.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, Tanzania, Somalia