The Islamic State’s use of social media and online tools to radicalize and recruit Westerners has become a subject of great interest among researchers, analysts and policy makers. Recently, attention has focused on the group’s use of its English-speaking members, primarily based in Syria and Iraq, to virtually connect with Americans and often encourage them to commit terrorist attacks within the United States.
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This evening, President Donald Trump is delivering his first address before Congress. Below, we have aggregated the portions of his prepared remarks that are relevant to Lawfare readers. We will update this post if the final speech differs significantly from the remarks as prepared.
This past Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced renewed efforts by Iraqi forces to retake western Mosul from ISIL, which would include about 450 U.S. advisers “operating closer and deeper into Iraqi formations,” according to Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. News of the surge was eclipsed, however, by a suicide bombing carried out by the Islamic State. The attack consisted of three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, commonly called VBIEDs.
In my twenty years of government service, I have been part of three Presidential transitions. In my experience, it is common for members of an outgoing administration to be unsure—and sometimes skeptical—about the policy direction of the administration that succeeds them. Having spent the last four years as President Obama’s principal advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, my concerns today are broader than any particular policy.
Late last week, a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida returned a two-count indictment against Noor Zahi Salman, the wife of Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen. On June 12, Mateen opened fired in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.
During the month of December, the Justice Department kept busy with the usual counterterrorism suspects—ISIL supporters (mostly young men) in Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina were arrested, sentenced, and pleaded guilty in federal district courts. The Department’s counterterrorism headlines over the past few weeks also covered a range of more unusual cases in both international terrorism and domestic terrorism, including the sentencing of an international arms trafficker and a Ku Klux Klan member.
International Terrorism Prosecutions
Who is the enemy in American counterterrorism? Is it the Islamic State, the broader jihadist movement, or a set of ideas about the role of religious and politics, often labeled “radical Islam?”
Middle East Ticker: Assad Regime Corners Rebels in Aleppo, U.S. Reauthorizes Iran Sanctions, and Islamic State Prepares Its Fallback Plan
Assad Regime Captures Large Swaths of Eastern Aleppo
When it comes to the Islamic State, who doesn’t want to “bomb the shit out of them,” as our President-elect so eloquently put it? The group is violent, aggressive, and almost cartoonishly evil: torture, mass murder, and sexual slavery are only a few of the abhorrent practices the Islamic State embraces. Left unchecked, it may consolidate power and expand.
Editor’s Note: Radical Islam is not a monolith. The Lebanese Hizballah fights the Islamic State in Syria, Hamas has crushed al-Qaeda sympathizers in Gaza, and—most importantly from a U.S. perspective—al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are bitter rivals. This tension shows up in Afghanistan, one of the most important U.S. theaters of war. Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation details how a surprising source contains the Islamic State there—the Taliban.