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  • Author: Flavia Eichmann
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Woodrow Wilson School Journal of Public and International Affairs
  • Institution: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: This article explores what impact terrorist blacklists have on negotiated solutions to armed conflicts involving listed non-state armed groups. Even though conflicts that involve non-state armed groups do not usually end through these groups’ military defeat, governments around the globe tend to adopt hard-security approaches with regard to inner-state conflicts. Especially when groups resort to terrorist tactics, governments tend to be reluctant to engage peacefully with these actors and instead commonly rely on terrorist blacklists in order to delegitimize and restrict groups’ activities. While these blacklists are effective in criminalizing the operations of these groups, they can also severely impede peaceful dialogue and thus negatively impact the resolution of conflicts. Especially the work of NGOs and third-party peace practitioners is greatly constrained by criminalizing any form of interaction with listed groups. Additionally, in the absence of a universal definition of what constitutes a terrorist group, lists vary from country to country and the criteria for groups and individuals to get listed are often extremely vague. Furthermore, most lists fail to re-evaluate the proscribed groups on a regular basis and delisting procedures lack transparency. This article finds that blacklists severely disincentivize peaceful engagement with non-state armed groups and thus calls for a revision of contemporary proscription regimes in order to shift the focus of counterterrorism approaches towards viewing peaceful dialogue as a first option and not a last resort.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Seth Loertscher, Daniel Milton, Bryan C. Price, Cynthia Loertscher
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: After the attacks of September 2001, the U.S. government grappled with ways to apply all aspects of its national power against the terrorist groups it found itself combating militarily. On the diplomatic and financial fronts, much of this increased effort revolved around the sanctioning and designating of terrorist groups and individual terrorist actors, resulting in a drastic increase of the number of individuals and groups which were branded with the term “terrorist.” Yet despite the application of these tools for almost 20 years, or longer in some cases, little work has been done to understand the impact of these programs. This report examines two sanctioning efforts the U.S. government has employed against terrorist actors: the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list and the designation of individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under the authority granted by Executive Order 13224. Although the specific purposes of each of these programs differ from one another, ultimately both represent a non-kinetic approach to counterterrorism that relies on the application of diplomatic and/or financial statecraft. The examination of each of these programs in this report has two general goals. The first is to provide an overview of the program and descriptive statistics regarding its implementation. The second is to provide some form of assessment regarding the impact that these programs have on terrorist groups and individuals. In accomplishing these two goals, the authors relied exclusively on open-source information collected by researchers at the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). This report attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the impacts of these tools, in addition to highlighting some of the structural limitations and gaps in the application of counterterrorism sanctions.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, Hamas, Abu Sayyaf
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Stephen Hummel, F. John Burpo
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Historically, only nation-states have had the capacity and resources to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) due to the significant capital, infrastructure, and intellectual capacity required to develop and maintain a WMD program. In recent years, however, this paradigm has been shifting, particularly for non-state actors. The commercialization of emerging technologies is reducing the financial, intellectual, and material barriers required for WMD development and employment. This report surveys three emerging technologies—synthetic biology, additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3D printing), and unmanned aerial systems—and examines the nexus of each with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons agent proliferation. It examines how non-state actors might use these emerging technologies to overcome traditional barriers against the development and employment of WMD. This product, a joint collaboration of the Combating Terrorism Center and the Department of Chemistry and Life Science at West Point, is a timely primer for policymakers, scientists, and security specialists concerned with the impact of emerging technologies on WMD development and terrorists’ capabilities broadly.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Weapons , Innovation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Blyth Crawford, Florence Keen, Raffaello Pantucci, Colin P. Clarke, Lorenzo Vidino, Jon Lewis, Andrew Mines, Christopher Anzalone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Far-right terror is going global, propelled to a significant degree by an online ecosystem of extremists posting in English. Since 2018, attackers have targeted synagogues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the towns of Poway, California, and Halle, Germany; mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; and a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. In this month’s feature article, Blyth Crawford and Florence Keen examine the February 19, 2020, far-right terrorist attack that targeted shisha bar customers in the German town of Hanau and led to the death of nine victims. They write that the influences on the deceased Hanau attacker Tobias Rathjen were “a combination of traditional far-right, race-based, and anti-immigration narratives, alongside several more obscure conspiracy theories.” They argue that a common denominator between the Hanau attack and the aforementioned attacks in the United States, New Zealand, and Germany “is the perpetrators’ shared adherence to the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy narrative … which perceives the cultural and biological integrity of the white race to be endangered by increased levels of (non-white) immigration and the stagnation of white birth rates.” In our ongoing “A View from the CT Foxhole” series, Raffaello Pantucci interviews Jonathan Evans, who served as the Director General of the U.K. Security Service MI5 between 2007 and 2013. Colin Clarke examines the issues raised by the December 6, 2019, terrorist attack by the Saudi Air Force Officer Mohammed Alshamrani, which killed three U.S. Navy sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. He writes, “In early February 2020, al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attack. It is not clear yet whether the group had a direct role in the attack, but if it did, it would make the shooting the first deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 directed by a foreign terrorist organization.” By analyzing “all related-court cases since 2013,” Lorenzo Vidino, Jon Lewis, and Andrew Mines find that “save for a few exceptions, the vast majority of U.S.-based Islamic State supporters left a remarkably small financial footprint. Most, in fact, simply relied on personal savings to pay the small costs required for their activities.” Christopher Anzalone examines al-Shabaab’s PSYOPS (psychological operations) messaging, which he argues “takes advantage of the lack of transparency in certain instances from its opponents, including some governments, and the demand by the international news media for details from on the ground, with the group framing itself as a reliable source of on-the-ground information.”
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Media, Islamic State, Violence, Far Right, Al Shabaab
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Daniel Milton, Muhammad Al-'Ubaydi, Michael Brian Jenkins, Mohammed Hafez
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: In the September issue, it is revealed for the first time that the Islamic State’s new leader, publicly identified by the U.S. government as Amir Muhammad Sa’id ‘Abd-al-Rahman al-Mawla, was detained by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008 and interrogated. The Combating Terrorism Center has made available on its website three of his declassified interrogation reports, and these are analyzed in a feature article by Daniel Milton and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi, who caution that claims made by al-Mawla while in custody are very difficult to verify. Based on their assessment of the three documents and their research, they conclude that “key assumptions about al-Mawla, notably his Turkmen ethnicity and early involvement in the insurgency in Iraq, may not be accurate. Moreover, statements made by al-Mawla, while doubtless trying to minimize his own commitment to ISI [the Islamic State of Iraq], suggest that his commitment may have been borne less of zeal than of serendipity. If true, this would suggest that something certainly changed in al-Mawla, as his later reputation suggests someone who ruthlessly pursued his ideology, even to carrying out genocide against its enemies. The TIRs [tactical interrogation reports] also show that al-Mawla, who, according to the timeline that he himself provided, appears to have quickly risen in the organization’s ranks in part because of his religious training, knew much about ISI and was willing to divulge many of these details during his interrogation, potentially implicating and resulting in the death of at least one high-ranking ISI figure.” The Combating Terrorism Center convened a panel of leading scholars and analysts to further discuss the three documents. Cole Bunzel, Haroro Ingram, Gina Ligon, and Craig Whiteside provided their takeaways, including on whether the revelations may hurt al-Mawla’s standing within the group. In the other cover article, Brian Michael Jenkins considers the future role of the U.S. armed forces in counterterrorism, in a sweeping examination of the changing strategic, budgetary and threat environment. He writes: “Dividing the military into near-peer warfare and counterterrorism camps makes little sense. Future wars will require U.S. commanders to orchestrate capabilities to counter an array of conventional and unconventional modes of conflict, including terrorism.” Finally, as the global civil war between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida intensifies, Mohammed Hafez outlines how a recent ‘documentary’ released by the Islamic State’s Yemeni branch has made clearer than ever before the areas of disagreement between the groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Forces, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Populism, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Raffaello Pantucci, Abdul Basit, Kyler Ong, Nur Aziemah Azman, V. Arianti, Muh Taufiqurrohman
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has redefined almost all spheres of modern life. While states around the world are redeploying their financial resources, energies and military capabilities to cope with the challenge of the coronavirus, terrorist groups across the ideological spectrum have positioned themselves to exploit the gaps created by these policy re-adjustments. Terrorist groups are milking people’s fears amid confusion and uncertainty to promote their extremist propagandas. The rearrangement of global imperatives will push counter-terrorism and extremism down the priority list of the international community. Anticipating these policy changes, existing counter-terrorism frameworks and alliances should be revisited to devise cost-effective and innovative strategies to ensure continuity of the fight against terrorist groups. With these considerations in mind, this special issue of the Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses (CTTA) features four articles that identify and assess important security risks around COVID-19, given its far-reaching social, economic and geopolitical impact. In the first article, Raffaello Pantucci reasons that COVID-19 will have a deep-seated and prolonged impact across government activity, both in terms of the categorisation of risks, as well as the resources available to tackle other issues. Perceptions of risk around terrorist threats may shift, with states grappling with stark economic, social and political challenges. At the same time, security threats continue to evolve, and may even worsen. According to the author, some of the tools developed to deal with the pandemic can potentially be useful in tracking terrorist threats. However, resource constraints will require states, on a global scale, to think far more dynamically about how to adequately buffer much-needed security blankets both within and beyond their borders. In the second article, Abdul Basit outlines the opportunities and potential implications that COVID-19 has created for terrorist groups across the ideological divide. According to the author, terrorist groups have exploited the virus outbreak to spread racial hatred, doomsday and end-of-times narratives. Among jihadist groups, IS has taken a more totalitarian view of the coronavirus pandemic, while Al-Qaeda (AQ) and the Taliban have used it as a PR exercise to gain political legitimacy. Far-right groups in the West have spun it to promote native nationalism, border restoration and anti-immigration policies. Terrorist groups have increased their social media propaganda to radicalise and recruit vulnerable individuals. At the same time, these groups have urged their supporters to carry out lone-wolf attacks and use the coronavirus as a bioweapon. In the post-COVID-19 world, revisiting existing counter-terrorism frameworks to devise more adaptable and cost-effective strategies would be needed to continue the fight against terrorism. In the next article, V. Arianti and Muh Taufiqurrohman observe that the COVID-19 outbreak has had a varied impact on Indonesia’s security landscape. On the one hand, it has emboldened IS-affiliated Indonesian militant groups to step up calls for attacks, with the government seen as weakened amidst a worsening domestic health crisis. On the other, ongoing indoctrination and recruitment activities of militant groups have also faced disruptions. According to the authors, counter-terrorism strategies will need to be reoriented as circumstances evolve, particularly in dealing with the arrest of militants and the subsequent processes of their prosecution and incarceration. Finally, Kyler Ong and Nur Aziemah Azman examine the calls to action by far-right extremists and the Islamic State (IS), which reveals varying degrees of organisational coherence in the respective movements. According to the authors, such variations influence these two groups’ preferred techniques, tactics and procedures adopted in seeking to exploit the health crisis. For its part, IS has a more organised hierarchical structure, even if it has increasingly granted autonomy to its affiliates to plan and execute attacks. In comparison, the absence of a central authority, or command structure in the far-right, can lead to a fragmentation of interests. These factors invariably create uncertainties in how, when and where extremists of both ilk may seek to operationalise an attack.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Health, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Jamille Bigio, Rachel Vogelstein
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Extremist groups rely upon women to gain strategic advantage, recruiting them as facilitators and martyrs while also benefiting from their subjugation. Yet U.S. policymakers overlook the roles that women play in violent extremism—including as perpetrators, mitigators, and victims—and rarely enlist their participation in efforts to combat radicalization. This omission puts the United States at a disadvantage in its efforts to prevent terrorism globally and within its borders. Women fuel extremists’ continued influence by advancing their ideology online and by indoctrinating their families. New technology allows for more sophisticated outreach, directly targeting messages to radicalize and recruit women. It also provides a platform on which female extremists thrive by expanding their recruitment reach and taking on greater operational roles in the virtual sphere. The failure of counterterrorist efforts to understand the ways in which women radicalize, support, and perpetrate violence cedes the benefit of their involvement to extremist groups.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Women
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael Pisa
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: As the organization responsible for setting international standards on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has encouraged countries to design measures that protect the integrity of the financial system and support financial inclusion. But it has also received criticism that poor implementation of its standards can undermine financial access. One of the FATF’s main tools for compelling effective use of its standards is the mutual evaluation process, which relies on peer reviews to assess countries’ level of compliance with the FATF Recommendations. We explore whether these reviews have been conducted in a way that helps or hinders national efforts to promote financial inclusion by reviewing the 33 developing country mutual evaluations that took place between 2015-2018. Overall, these findings suggest that assessment teams have conducted mutual evaluations in a way that supports efforts to promote financial inclusion and the flexible use of simplified measures. There is, however, inconsistency in how assessors treat risks emanating from financial exclusion, which suggests the need for a more systematic approach to evaluating these risks.
  • Topic: Development, Terrorism, Finance, Financial Integrity
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jessica Trisko Darden
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: US counterterrorism policy must draw on all available tools to succeed. This includes combining security, development, and humanitarian assistance when necessary to target environments that enable violent extremism to flourish. US foreign development assistance can effectively support counterterrorism efforts when centered on four pillars: (1) prioritizing local physical security, (2) responding to humanitarian need, (3) improving governance, and (4) targeting and tailoring programming to local contexts. A refined development approach to counterterrorism should more effectively target at-risk populations, address local governance concerns, and shape economic conditions in ways that support America’s counterterrorism goals.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Lasha Giorgidze, James K. Wither
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
  • Abstract: Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials attract the attention of terrorists motivated to inflict mass casualties and create mass panic. CBRN includes a wide array of materials, some of them very difficult to acquire, although others are of a dual-use nature. Dualuse materials can be used to construct CBRN weapons, but also have licit civilian applications. Though not all CBRN weapons are weapons of mass destruction, they can still cause massive disruption and fear in a targeted society. The goal of this paper is to evaluate the potential threat from terrorists’ use of CBRN weapons. It discusses the technical opportunities and constraints of each type of weapon and presents relevant historical and contemporary examples and case studies involving terrorist use of CBRN. The paper also assesses the contemporary threat. It examines how CBRN-related information is shared via terrorist propaganda on the internet and messaging applications, why terrorists might be motivated to use CBRN materials, and the constraints on their ambitions.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Internet, Biological Weapons , Chemical Weapons, Radiological Weapons
  • Political Geography: Global Focus