Tag Archives: terrorism

Has Boko Haram Been Defeated?

In an interview with the BBC, Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria, asserted that Nigeria had “technically won the war” against the terrorist organization Boko Haram in the country. According to Buhari, Boko Haram could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centers in Nigeria, and had been reduced to relying on roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks.

Since its founding in 2002, Boko Haram has carried out dozens of attacks, primarily against soft targets, in Nigeria and across Western Africa. In April 2014, the group was catapulted into international headlines when it kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok, in northern Nigeria, sparing the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. While more than 50 were ultimately able to escape, more than 200 others remain missing and are believed to have been married off or sold into slavery. According to many observers, that event was critical to the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign for reelection in 2015.

What do you think? Has Boko Haram been defeated? How is success against an organization like Boko Haram to be measured? And how would you advise President Buhari to deal with the group?

The Fallout from Paris

The international response to last Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris continues to intensify. Investigations by French authorities have led to multiple arrests in Belgium and France, and an international warrant has been issued for the Belgian citizen believed to be the mastermind for the attack. French President François Hollande descried the attacks as “an act of war” and has intensified French airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

Within the United States, the response to the attack in France has been shaded by the ongoing Presidential primary process. Republican presidential candidates from Donald Trump to Bobby Jindall have called for a range of military actions, from increased airstrikes to deploying American ground forces. Democratic candidates have generally supported President Obama’s existing strategy of airstrikes to support anti-ISIS forces—most notably rebels in Syria and Kurds in Iraq—rather than deploying US soldiers directly on the ground.

But perhaps the sharpest difference has been on the response to Syrian refugees. Noting that one of the terrorists killed in the Paris attack carried a Syrian passport, Republican presidential candidates have called for responses to address immigration. Some have called for an outright ban on refugees from Syria, while others have called for a religious test, limiting immigration to “true Christians” only. Governors of more than fifteen states have said that they would not accept Syrian refugees—proclamations that may be more symbolic than effective. But according to German sources, the Syrian passport was likely a fake intended to paint the attackers as Syrian refugees and provoke precisely this response.

What do you think? Should the United States and other Western countries take steps to limit the ability of Syrian refugees to seek asylum abroad? Why? Does such a move strengthen ISIS’s narrative, as President Obama suggests? Why? And how do you think the United States should respond to the Paris terror attacks?

Fighting the Islamic State after Paris

A series of simultaneous attacks launched in Paris yesterday resulted in at last 140 deaths and more than 80 injuries. French President François Hollande described the attack as an “act of war” perpetrated by Islamic State militants, and world leaders expressed sympathy and support. The attack targeted bars, restaurants, and nightclubs popular with young Parisians and a football match underway. At least eight gunmen and suicide bombers responsible for the attack have been captured or killed. The French government responded by temporarily closing its borders and imposing a curfew in Paris. In claiming responsibility for the attacks, the Islamic State warned the Paris attack was “the first of the storm.”

The Islamic State burst on to the international scene in 2014 after capturing large portions of territory in Iraq and Syria. Originally referred to as ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (the Islamic State in the Levant), the organization has launched operations in countries as far as Australia, Belgium, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Norway, and elsewhere.

What do you think? What, if anything, can be done to prevent terror attacks like that in Paris yesterday? How might France, the United States, and others work to address the growing reach of the Islamic State both in Europe and the Middle East? And how might the attacks affect EU migration policy as the European Union struggles to address the influx of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS in Syria?

Are Lone-Wolf Terror Attacks Preventable?

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?

Banning Social Media to Prevent Islamization

The Turkish government today announced a series of restrictions on social media, blocking access to Twitter and other social media websites in an effort to prevent the spread of images from the circulation of images from the Suruc bomb attack. Critics argue it’s a broader effort to prevent mobilization of anti-government protests by Kurds dissatisfied with the government’s approach to the crisis in Syria.

Yesterday a massive suicide bomb attack targeted a protest organized by youth activists in the southern Turkish town of Suruc. At least 32 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the bombing, believed to be the work of Islamic State militants. Located along Turkey’s southern border with Syria, the town had seen a massive influx of Kurdish refugees fleeing fighting in Syria. The protestors, mostly members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, had been planning a relief trip to the Syrian town of Kobane and were angry at the Turkish government for not doing more to combat the Islamic State and support Kurdish fighters in Syria.

What do you think? Is the Turkish government right to block access to social media to prevent the publication of images from the bombing in Suruc. Or is it merely trying to stifle anti-government protests?

What’s Driving ISIS? How Can It Be Stopped?

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 Expanding ISIS Threat

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?