A key leader in Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) released video yesterday celebrating the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the attack on the “Draw Mohammed” Contest in Texas, and the Chattanooga shooting in the United States. The video also calls for new lone-wolf attacks against targets in the United States. The video features Abu al-Miqdad al Kindi, who escaped custody from a prison in Yemen, has become a key leader and spokesperson in AQAP. On the same day, Ibrahim al-Asiri, AQAP’s chief bomb maker, released a statement via AQAP’s Twitter account echoing the call for additional strikes against the United States.
The ability of organizations like al Qaeda and the Islamic State to radicalize followers in the West to carry out individual, decentralized attacks represents a significant threat. And American security officials have long fretted about the danger posed by lone-wolf attacks. Unlike more complex operations like those of September 11, lone-wolf attacks are significantly cheaper to carry out and less likely to be exposed. While lacking the large-scale impact of more complex operations, lone-wolf attacks nevertheless generate the publicity and state of fear that is the goal of the terrorist groups.
What do you think? Are lone-wolf terror attacks preventable? What should the United States and other countries threatened by such attacks do to help prevent them?
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for several terror attacks last week. In Tunisia, 38 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a beach popular with foreign tourists. The government responded over the weekend by announcing the closure of 80 mosques it blames for spreading radical Islam. In Kuwait, a suicide bomb attack outside a Shiite mosque killed 27 and wounded more than 200. And in France, a man crashed his van into a chemical factory in an attempt to cause an explosion and release chemicals into the air. ISIS claimed responsibility for all three attacks, though no independent authority has confirmed the group was involved. Interestingly, the attacks all took place during the holy month of Ramadan, which began this year on June 17 and historically has been viewed by most Muslims as a time for fasting, reflection, and prayer.
For many ISIS fighters, Ramadan is viewed as an opportunity to expand the organization’s reach.
What’s driving ISIS’s current efforts? There are several interpretations. In this interview with the BBC, Majid Nawaz, Chair of the Quilliam Foundation, offers a complex interpretation of current events, suggesting that the expansion of the Islamic State is driven by a combination of factors that includes foreign policy, identity, underemployment and other grievances interpreted through a lens of Islamism that provides justification and inspiration for action. If correct, his analysis suggests a response rooted in isolating and challenging radical interpretations of Islam (and by extension, other religions) that lead to radicalization.
What do you think? Do you agree with Nawaz’s analysis? Why? And what does it suggest for efforts to prevent the apparent spread of Islamic State terrorists?
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack against a bank in Afghanistan, killing at least 33 people. ISIS claimed the attack was targeting government officials cashing paychecks. If ISIS is responsible for the attack, it would represent a significant expansion in the organization’s reach, which had historically been confined largely to Syria and Iraq. It also highlights the ongoing challenges faced in providing security in Afghanistan.
The expansion of ISIS also highlights a shift in the balance between terror organizations, with al Qaeda apparently in decline and ISIS clearly on the rise.
What do you think? What factors account for the increasing reach of ISIS? Has ISIS replaced al Qaeda as the primary terror threat in the region? Why? And what, if anything, should be done to address ISIS’s growing reach?
The Jordanian government has intensified airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces in Syria, less than a week after ISIS burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive. ISIS has already claimed that Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker in Syria who was captured by ISIS in 2013, was killed in a Jordian airstrike. The Jordanian government has rejected that assertion, maintaining that there is no evidence that ISIS’s claims are true.
Meanwhile, international observers have repeatedly noted that airstrikes alone are unlikely to weaken or dislodge ISIS from its stronghold.
What do you think? Will ground forces ultimately be deployed to combat ISIS in Syria? Will the United States send ground forces to fight against ISIS? Why? Should it? Why?