Islamic State

Latest in Islamic State

Counterterrorism

Targeting al-Baghdadi and Selective Notification to Congress: Assessing the Issues

In the aftermath of the successful operation against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the fact that the Trump administration gave advance notice to the Russian government and possibly also to some Republican lawmakers—but not to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff or other Democratic lawmakers—is attracting criticism. Is the criticism warranted? Not from a legal perspective. But it’s complicated from there.

Syria

On the Ground in Northern Syria

President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from observation posts in northeastern Syria has paved the way for Turkey’s military offensive into areas inhabited by Syrian Kurds and other minority communities. In a little over two weeks, this region has gone from relative stability to a state of conflict, uncertainty and fragility. Since 2016 we have conducted hundreds of interviews with Syrians from all backgrounds, including current and former members of the Islamic State. We filmed and catalogued the rise of the Islamic State across the region and the caliphate’s subsequent demise.

Afghanistan

Islamic State Affiliate Seeks to Expand in Afghanistan

Afghan intelligence officials reportedly captured a deputy leader of the Islamic State-Khorasan (the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, also referred to as ISK) near the city of Herat in September. Herat is more than 1,000 kilometers west of ISK’s stronghold in Nangarhar province, and much of Herat province and the surrounding region is contested by the Taliban.

Foreign Policy Essay

Losing Control Over Returnees?

Editor’s Note: Perhaps the biggest counterterrorism challenge facing European states is how to handle their citizens who went to fight in Iraq and Syria and now seek to return. Europe's response has been muddled, with many states reluctant to take responsibility for their nationals yet not advancing an alternative policy. Thomas Renard and Rik Coolsaet of the Egmont Institute assess the problems European states face and outline ways to make the return of foreign fighters less risky and more sustainable.

Daniel Byman

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Foreign Policy Essay

Counterproductive Counterinsurgency: Is Mozambique Creating the Next Boko Haram?

Editor’s Note: Mozambique has a small terrorism problem, but the government’s response threatens to make it a big one. Hilary Matfess of Yale University and Alexander Noyes of RAND Corp. contend that Mozambique is overreacting to the danger with a heavy-handed crackdown that is inflaming tension while doing little to disrupt the most radical elements there. Indeed, they argue that Mozambique risks following the path of Nigeria, where a ham-fisted government response to a radical sect led to a surge in support for the group that became Boko Haram.

Foreign Policy Essay

Revisiting Marawi: Women and the Struggle Against the Islamic State in the Philippines

Editor’s Note: The Islamic State’s crimes against women are well known, but it has also managed to appeal to women to join the fight directly or otherwise support the group. Too often, however, governments fail to recognize this risk. Kiriloi Ingram of the University of Queensland draws on her fieldwork in the Philippines to argue that governments and civil society groups need to do a far better job of recognizing the dangers women can pose while also empowering them to help counter violent extremism.

Daniel Byman

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Foreign Policy Essay

Addressing the Threat of Homegrown Violent Extremists Sympathetic to the Islamic State

Editor’s Note: In recent years, so-called homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) have eclipsed returned foreign fighters and other sources of terrorism. National Defense University’s Kim Cragin assesses the HVE threat and finds that, contrary to popular opinion, Western security agencies are disrupting many HVE plots and otherwise doing well against this potentially dangerous threat.

Daniel Byman

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Foreign Policy Essay

How Content Removal Might Help Terrorists

In recent years, counterterrorism policy has focused on making social media platforms hostile environments for terrorists and their sympathizers. From the German NetzDG law to the U.K.’s Online Harms White Paper, governments are making it clear that such content will not be tolerated. Platforms—and maybe even specific individuals—will be held accountable using a variety of carrot-and-stick approaches.

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