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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: Telli Betül Karacan
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Studies of IS propaganda show that it uses both new and old, proven methods to recruit members and conquer new territories following the loss of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Fragile States, Islamic State, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, India, Asia, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Security cooperation with Iraq remains a critical component of the US-Iraq relationship. Despite neighboring Iran’s ability to limit US political and economic engagement, Iraq still seeks US assistance to develop its military and to combat resurgent terrorist organizations. This monograph provides a historical and cultural basis from which to understand the limitations and potential for US cooperation with Iraq’s armed forces.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Islamic State, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Zachary Constantino
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The most consequential regional competition for influence in Afghanistan is the contest between India and Pakistan. Indian leaders strive to cultivate Afghanistan as a natural partner and reliable bulwark against Islamic militants, including Pakistan-backed groups, while Islamabad seeks to counter what it regards as an Indo-Afghan nexus to encircle and weaken Pakistan. This report examines the interests and strategies of both countries in Afghanistan within the context of peace negotiations and developments in Kashmir.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Conflict, Peace, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia, India, Kashmir
  • Author: Martha Crenshaw
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The 2011 civil war in Syria attracted thousands of fighters from at least seventy countries to join the Islamic State. Al-Shabaab carried out large-scale attacks on civilian targets in Uganda and Kenya as retribution for the deployment of peacekeeping forces in Somalia. In this report, Martha Crenshaw considers the extent to which civil war and foreign military intervention function as a rationale for transnational terrorism, and how understanding the connections between terrorism, civil war, and weak governance can help the United States and its allies mount an appropriate response.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Non State Actors, Islamic State, Transnational Actors, Peace, Al-Shabaab
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Kenya, Africa, Middle East, Syria, Somalia, 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: Amira Jadoon, Nakissa Jahanbani, Charmaine Willis
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: In 2016, the Islamic State acknowledged a series of pledges from Southeast Asian militant groups by declaring Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf Group to be the regional emir and encouraging local supporters to travel to the Philippines to wage jihad. Since 2016, a wave of Islamic State-linked attacks, including attempted and successful suicide attacks across the region, as well as the Marawi siege in 2017 by Islamic State-linked groups, has raised significant regional security concerns. Critical questions about the growing influence of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, the interconnectedness of Islamic State affiliates, and the risks associated with returning fighters from Iraq and Syria remain unanswered. In the first of a four-part series on the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, this report sheds light on the overarching characteristics of Islamic State-linked operations across Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines between 2014 and 2019, highlighting how the Islamic State’s arrival has affected regional militancy. Drawing on open-source materials, the report maps the characteristics and regional dispersion of Islamic State-linked activity in the region, providing regional and country-level context for the nature of the threat. Additionally, the report identifies six regional militant groups as the Islamic State’s operational affiliates, defined as groups that have claimed attacks concurrently with the Islamic State. The findings of the report draw attention to a marked increase in the use of Islamic State-linked suicide attacks and lethality in 2019, and significant numbers of failed and foiled attacks by Islamic State-affiliated or -inspired individuals in Indonesia and Malaysia. While the most important dimension of the Islamic State threat may be the existing militant infrastructure offered by its operational alliances in the Philippines and Indonesia, the threat in Malaysia exists in the form of independent plotters and radicalized individuals who present a pool of potential recruits for existing networks of militants in the region.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Malaysia, Asia, Philippines
  • 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: Amira Jadoon, Andrew Mines
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Since its official formation in January 2015, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan has risen to prominence as one of its most dangerous affiliates, making it one of the world’s top four deadliest militant organizations in 2018. Islamic State Khorasan’s (ISK) ascendency, however, has not come without heavy costs. Since 2015, a variety of state-led operations against ISK have inflicted substantial manpower and leadership losses upon the group across Afghanistan and Pakistan. This report is the first to conduct a systematic review of operations against ISK between 2015 and 2018 to answer the following questions: what is the nature and level of manpower losses incurred by ISK in various campaigns against the group? How have these operations altered the level of the ISK threat, and what do they reveal about ISK’s militant base? Finally, how have these operations affected ISK’s operational capacity? This report draws on open-source materials to assess the above questions, and provides detailed information on the various state-led operations against ISK in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the group’s associated costs in terms of losses of both leadership and other ISK-linked individuals. As this report demonstrates, intense targeting of ISK in both countries has resulted in substantial losses for the group; between 2015 and 2018, ISK’s losses amounted to the killing, capture, or surrender of well over 10,000 ISK-linked individuals and over 500 militants in leadership roles, predominantly in Afghanistan. A parallel examination of the group’s losses and its operational activity indicates that while state-led operations have curtailed ISK’s overall number of attacks and its geographical expansion, the group has retained its ability to conduct highly lethal attacks, as evidenced by recently claimed attacks in Kabul in late February and early March 2020. The report’s findings also imply that one of ISK’s key strengths, which has allowed it to survive the onslaught of state-led operations, is its access to a steady supply of experienced militants on both sides of the border that allows it to replace its top leaders and replenish its human capital.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia
  • Author: Paul Cruickshank, Michael Knights, Haroro J. Ingram, Craig Whiteside, Charlie Winter, Seth Loertscher, Ariane Tabatabai, Gina Vale
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: The January 3, 2020, U.S. drone strike that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Kata’ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport will likely have consequences that reverberate across the region and beyond for years. In our first feature article, Michael Knights focuses on the potential consequences for Iraq. He writes that the removal of Soleimani and al-Muhandis, “in combination with resistance from protestors, religious leaders, and the international community, could slow or stall the consolidation of [Tehran-backed] militia power in Iraq.” Ariane Tabatabai assesses that although Soleimani “was perhaps unparalleled in his ability to advance Iranian national interests as viewed by the regime,” the Quds Force is “unlikely to change its modus operandi significantly and that the new Quds Force commander, Esmail Qaani, is likely to ensure a smooth transition.” In our second feature article, Haroro Ingram, Craig Whiteside, and Charlie Winter—the authors of the soon-to-be-published book The ISIS Reader: Milestone Texts of the Islamic State Movement—“present three frames through which to understand the [Islamic State] movement’s ability to navigate through spectacular highs and crippling lows.” Our interview is with Rob Saale, who between 2017 and 2019 was the director of the U.S. Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, an interagency group housed at the FBI. Gina Vale examines a collection of 24 internal Islamic State documents obtained by U.S. military forces operating in Iraq and Syria and declassified through the Combating Terrorism Cen-ter’s Harmony Program. She writes that the documents indicate “the Islamic State sought to translate citizens’ compliance with pious ideals into long-term acceptance of the group’s ideological legitimacy and governing authority.” The full collection of documents, including English translation, is now available on the CTC’s website.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Qassem Soleimani, Militias
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East