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  • Author: Farah Pandith
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Pushing his $1.9 trillion stimulus package through Congress, President Joseph Biden argued long and hard that the only way to defeat a deadly virus was to go big. Now, he has to go big on another infectious virus: the rising swell of hatred and violence that has ripped through regions as diverse as Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and North America, where the growing dark forces of hate and extremism led to the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Biden and his expert team have first-hand experience with terrorist movements as well as the benefit of the long arc of history. But much has changed in the 20 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks – the last time organized extremists took aim at sacred symbols of America.[1] Looking back at the horror of that day and what it unleashed, we are reminded of the power and malevolence of organized, relentless bad actors and what they can achieve in the name of some twisted ideology. A new federal intelligence report says domestic terrorism in 2021 could likely escalate with “support from persons in the United States or abroad.”[2] It’s why President Biden must be bold, focused and use all instruments of soft power to diminish the appeal of the ideology.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the sixth in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining the Middle East and North Africa, Matthew Levitt reimagines the U.S. counterterrorism enterprise with a view to its long-term sustainability. Since the September 11 attacks, Washington has poured funding into a largely military-led response to terrorism, but today both Democrats and Republicans stress the need to end “forever” wars, focus limited resources on protecting the homeland, and lean more on foreign partners to address terrorism in their neighborhoods. Yet any shift in posture must seek a maximum return on the twenty-year U.S. investment in counterter­rorism while also keeping up with terrorists’ exploitation of new technologies, from drones to encrypted communication to social media. This will require finding areas of policy overlap between counterterrorism and Great Power competition, and disentangling U.S. counterterrorism budgets from the military budgets on which they have been grafted over the past two decades. More broadly, the author explains, “convincing partners to share more of the counterterrorism burden will require that Washington repair its damaged credibility and demonstrate the staying power to meet its alliance commitments.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Security, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Military Spending, 9/11
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Saud Al-Sharafat
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The pandemic has not ended terrorism in Jordan, and ISIS is still a significant threat. Last year’s abnormally low terrorist activity in Jordan could be interpreted as an indication that the threat of ISIS in the country has diminished significantly. Unfortunately, this is not the case; while there are several explanations for the low occurrence of terrorist attacks in Jordan in 2020, none of them point to a future in which ISIS does not continue to pose a threat to Jordanian security. On the contrary, the decrease in ISIS activity in Jordan last year was primarily a result of effective counterterrorism efforts, not the special circumstances of the pandemic or any other factor. Accordingly, Jordanian anti-terror institutions should not relax their guard. Rather, they should capitalize on their successes, expanding cooperation with their partners and enhancing their resources in combatting extremism. Jordanian security forces should be especially concerned with activities along their borders. There have been several recent international and UN reports that confirmed the rising activities of terrorist groups in countries that border Jordan. Iraq in particular has seen a recent rise in terrorist attacks, including two suicide bombings in Baghdad on January 21, 2021 that killed 32 people and injured 110 others. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. In turn, ISIS's mounting activities in Iraq have led to increased terrorist activity in the Badia al-Sham region and the Jordanian Syrian-Iraqi border triangle, where terrorist militants move in small, highly mobile groups. This increase in activity has prompted Jordanian security forces to strengthen their presence on the borders with Iraq and Syria. Following a Russian air campaign in the Badia region in late February, in which Russian planes launched at least 130 air strikes in one day against terrorist groups in the area, Jordan started to strengthen and tightened its security presence on the borders to prevent infiltration of ISIS elements into Jordan. Russian strikes were especially targeted at ISIS, which extends between the governorates of Homs and Deir al-Zour at the border with Iraq.
  • Topic: Security, Counter-terrorism, Peace, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on the Assad regime’s culpability, they also face a complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. After a decade of civil war in Syria, the core antagonist remains the Assad regime, which in 2011 ruthlessly suppressed peaceful protestors and has since tortured and executed tens of thousands of detainees. The regime also bears responsibility for fostering the growth of the Islamic State, in part by releasing Syrian jihadists at the start of the war. Yet even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on Assad’s culpability, they also face a highly complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. In this Policy Note, expert Aaron Zelin details how the world’s counterterrorism and Great Power challenges converge in Syria, and how they must be addressed holistically. To this end, he proposes policies on the diplomatic, humanitarian, legal, economic, and military fronts that can calm the fears of U.S. allies such as Israel, Jordan, and Turkey, and perhaps inspire a more robust opposition, backed by a diverse set of local and diaspora activists.
  • Topic: Counter-terrorism, Syrian War, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Matthew Levitt
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The administration's achievements were counterbalanced by a striking lack of alignment among three U.S. national security strategies and the discouraging rapid rise of far-right extremism at home. The Trump administration has a mixed record on counterterrorism, overshadowed by troubling trends. On the positive side, it continued the Obama administration’s efforts to defeat the Islamic State on the battlefield while pressuring other jihadist groups in Syria and aggressively pushing back on Iran and its terrorist proxies. But these achievements were counterbalanced by a striking lack of alignment among the U.S. National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Counterterrorism Strategy, hobbling effective policy execution. Still more discouraging has been the rapid rise of far-right extremism at home, a development President Trump has refused to denounce and even stoked. The ninth volume of The Washington Institute’s Counterterrorism Lecture Series, edited by Matthew Levitt, covers the period November 2018 to March 2020. Its pages include the assessments of officials and experts seeking to understand the full scope of the CT challenge and develop sophisticated methods to address it.
  • Topic: National Security, Counter-terrorism, Donald Trump, Non-Traditional Threats
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Noah Coburn
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: The United States’ Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program was designed to help Afghans and Iraqis who are in danger of being killed as a result of their service to the U.S. government as translators or in other civilian jobs. As of 2020, over 18,000 Afghan applicants have received U.S. visas, along with over 45,000 of their immediate family members, and immigrated to the U.S. The program has been plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies and significant problems with the application process, resulting in a backlog of an additional 18,800 applications according to a 2019 review of the program. The lives of thousands of these applicants are currently at risk. This report on the Afghan SIV program, based on interviews with over 150 SIV applicants and recipients, as well as a review of other studies of the program, suggests that while the program is well-intentioned and beneficial to certain successful applicants, its current structure puts the lives of applicants at risk and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation before, during and after the process. The lack of a coherent, effective strategy to support these workers, and the failure to implement the program as originally envisioned, leaves applicants stranded in Afghanistan or elsewhere and vulnerable to attacks by the Taliban and criminal groups, as well as other forms of exploitation. This has further undermined the reputation of the United States government in Afghanistan while serving a relatively small percentage of those Afghans who worked closely with the U.S. The program also does little to support those who do receive visas and move to the U.S. They are ultimately disappointed in, and unprepared for, the lack of support they receive upon settling in the United States. The program could do much more to prepare and support these recipients for the challenges they are likely to face during resettlement. The Biden administration’s current review of the SIV program is a good step forward, but unless that review takes a closer look at the true human costs of its flawed processes, it is likely to result in little more than bureaucratic tinkering. The program must be seriously overhauled, based on a reconceptualization of how to best support those who put their lives at risk to assist the United States government. As it is currently structured, the SIV program may in fact be doing more harm than good.
  • Topic: Immigration, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, War on Terror
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Stephanie Savell
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: United States “security assistance” exports a militarized counterterrorism model to dozens of countries through money, training, and weapons. This model comes with dangerous costs. The narrative, tactics, funding, and institutional supports of the U.S. post-9/11 wars fuel repression and corruption, and escalate cycles of violence. This paper delves into the current conflict in Burkina Faso as an illustrative case study of how the U.S. counterterrorism model has caused more, not less, instability and violence. Despite the relatively low levels of terrorism assessed in Burkina Faso at the time, the United States laid the groundwork for increased militarism in the region when it began providing security assistance to the country in 2009. Today, Burkina Faso is enveloped in a spiraling conflict involving government forces, state-sponsored militias, and militant groups, and civilians are paying the price. Militant groups have strengthened and seized territory, ethnic tensions have skyrocketed, thousands of Burkinabe have been killed and over one million displaced. A Burkina-based human rights group has warned that the government’s ethnic killings may lead to the “next Rwanda.”
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Counter-terrorism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States of America, Burkina Faso
  • Author: Stephanie Savell, Rachel McMahon, Emily Rockwell, Yueshan Li
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: The map illustrates countries in which the U.S. government conducted operations it explicitly described as counterterrorism, in an outgrowth of President George W. Bush's “Global War on Terror.” These operations include air and drone strikes, on-the-ground combat, so-called “Section 127e” programs in which U.S. special operations forces plan and control partner force missions, military exercises in preparation for or as part of counterterrorism missions, and operations to train and assist foreign forces. (The map does not comprehensively cover the full scope of U.S. post-9/11 warfare, as it does not document, for instance, U.S. military bases used for counterterror operations, arms sales to foreign governments, or all deployments of U.S. special operations forces.) Despite the Pentagon’s assertion that the U.S. is shifting its strategic emphasis away from counterterrorism and towards great power competition with Russia and China, examining U.S. military activity on a country-by-country basis shows that there is yet to be a corresponding drawdown of the counterterror apparatus. If anything, the map demonstrates that counterterrorism operations have become more widespread in recent years.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Edmund Fitton-Brown, Ken Dilanian, Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Jane Marriott, Aimen Dean
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were a dramatic wake up call to the United States and the wider world as to the threats posed by violent jihad. However, more than 20 years later, the challenges remain and efforts to combat the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS have led to even greater levels of conflict and terrorism itself. With a view to hindsight and an eye focused forwards, this panel will seek to assess the lessons learned from the war on terror since 2001 from a range of international perspectives and to present alternative approaches to dealing with the challenges that prevail today.
  • Topic: Terrorism, History, Counter-terrorism, 9/11
  • Political Geography: Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Livia Peres Milani
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Contexto Internacional
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
  • Abstract: Academic literature on US Foreign Policy to South America usually states its lack of atten- tion to the region in the post 9/11 period. I aim to problematize this assertion through an analysis of US regional security policy. Therefore, I consider data referring to military and economic assistance, arms transfers, and the SOUTHCOM position towards its area of responsibility, as well as official documents and diplomatic cables. I conclude that, although the region was not a priority, a waning in US actions or a moment of neglect in its policy towards it was likewise not observed. From a historical perspective, the area was never the main focus of attention, but there is a specialized bu- reaucracy that works on the region to maintain US hegemony. Therefore, the investigation indicates that Latin American assertiveness during the 2000s was caused primarily by the conjunction of the ascension of leftist governments and quest for autonomy, as well as by Chinese and Russian involve- ment in Latin America, but not by US neglect. The article is divided into six sections, including the introduction and final remarks. Following the introduction, I analyse the academic literature regarding USA-Latin American relations in the second section, the US assistance in the third, the SOUTHCOM postures in the fourth, and the strategies deployed by the USA regarding great powers and arms transfers in the fifth. Finally, I present the final remarks.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Latin America, North America, United States of America