The annual accounting to Congress of global threats to the United States made it sound like al-Qaida’s separate branches were managing to thrive independently of one another, said Bruce Hoffman, Cipher Brief expert and Council on Foreign Relations visiting senior fellow, in comments to The Cipher Brief. But Hoffman believes ...

Bottom Line: While ISIS’s territory has dwindled, al Qaida has managed to build a strong following in Syria, and may use the civil-war-torn country as a base from which to target the West. The group has evolved into the network’s largest global affiliate by strategically positioning itself as a key ...

One of the most worrisome trend lines in the Syrian civil war has been the accelerated growth of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which seized control of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province over the summer and has transformed into the de facto face of the country’s anti-Assad campaign. ...

Al Qaeda’s role in the Syrian civil war drastically increased after the al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) managed to take control of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province and position itself as the strongest rebel force battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. HTS has built accumulated support in Syria by focusing its ...

As the U.S. focuses its attention on defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, al Qaeda has managed to expand its presence in Syria and now controls Syria’s northwestern Idlib province with a population of two million people. In Idlib, al Qaeda has emerged as the head of an umbrella coalition ...

Pakistan’s foreign minister says the Trump administration is blaming Islamabad for America’s own failure to rout out terrorism in the region. “We are not saying we are saints. Perhaps in the past we have made some mistakes,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters in Washington Thursday. “But since the ...

Since the U.S. declared its War on Terror 16 years ago, it has achieved a number of battlefield successes against its main terrorist adversaries, al Qaeda and more recently ISIS. U.S. operations in South and Central Asia have crippled core al Qaeda’s capabilities, while a U.S.-led international coalition has thwarted ...

Earlier this year,  The Cipher Brief examined the deteriorating security situation across North Africa, contending that al Qaeda’s regional offshoot, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was poised to wreak havoc and generate further instability throughout the Sahel. Over the past nine months, this appears to have been the ...

Although the United States counterterrorism campaign is focused on key battlegrounds in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, the threat posed by al Qaeda in North Africa remains a concern for U.S. intelligence officials. The U.S. has partnered with France to combat extremist groups in the North African region, with ...

Developments in the Sahel are cause for real alarm. Insecurity in northern and central Mali, the epicenter of much of the region’s al Qaeda-related violence, continues to grow, while Islamist violence has spread from there and from northern Nigeria to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Just last month, gunmen ...

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has used leadership decapitation – the targeting and killing of terrorist leaders – as a pillar of its counterterrorism strategy. Through combat operations, special operations forces raids, and drone strikes, the U.S. has successfully removed al Qaeda and ISIS commanders from battlefields across ...

Since 9/11, eliminating terrorist leaders through a strategy known as leadership decapitation has emerged as key pillar of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. Although the U.S. has successfully removed numerous terrorists from the battlefield, leadership decapitation does not necessarily equate to the destruction of a terrorist organization, especially groups with ...

The removal of top terrorist leaders from the battlefield continues to be a critical element of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. In the years since 9/11, the U.S has managed to keep pressure on several key terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS, by targeting their senior leadership and ...

Spanish authorities said Friday the deadly attacks in Barcelona and a seaside town are linked and long-planned by a terrorist cell. While several people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, the driver who plowed through pedestrians on Las Ramblas is still at large and police are searching for other suspects. ...

In South Asia, most of the U.S. attention is focused on Afghanistan where it is combatting terrorist and insurgent groups such as al Qaeda, ISIS, the Haqqani network, and the Taliban.  But another prominent, Pakistani-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), continues to carry out attacks against Indian forces in the disputed ...

Early Monday morning, at least two terrorists attacked a prominent Turkish café in the Burkina Faso capital city of Ouagadougou, leaving nearly 20 people dead including at least 8 foreigners from a number of countries, including Kuwait, Canada, France, Lebanon, Nigeria, Senegal, and Turkey. The attackers shot customers on a ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Daniel Byman, Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution to discuss ISIS’ recent battlefield losses and what to expect from the ISIS threat moving forward. The Cipher Brief: What is your assessment of ISIS’ overall strength ...

In March, the Trump Administration imposed a new set of restrictions targeting carry-on luggage arriving on planes from several Muslim-majority countries after intelligence reports indicated that terrorist organizations have been perfecting techniques to conceal explosive devices in laptop batteries and smuggle them on board aircrafts. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel ...

The term “political Islam” has become commonplace after the Arab uprisings of 2011, during which Islamist groups rose to political prominence across the Middle East and North Africa. But what does “political Islam” really mean, and should Westerners fear it? For most observers, the term refers to relatively moderate Islamist ...

While al Qaeda’s affiliates in North Africa, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen continue to grab headlines, the terrorist network has surreptitiously expanded eastward, entrenching itself throughout the Indian subcontinent. “Al Qaeda’s reach in South Asia is deeper than what not only the news headlines, but also the U.S. government, may suggest,” explains ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). According to Kugelman, al Qaeda has managed to “spread its tentacles across the Indian Subcontinent ...

While al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) may be regionally focused, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says “that doesn’t mean AQIS can be divorced from al Qaeda’s aspirations to attack the West.” In an interview with The Cipher Brief, Gartenstein-Ross also said ...

While the U.S. remains focused on defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, al Qaeda in Syria is accumulating strength at an alarming pace and may eventually pose the most daunting counterterrorism challenge that the U.S. has ever faced. “Al Qaeda has methodically enhanced its standing in Syria and finds itself ...

Following recent infighting with other Syrian rebel groups in the northwestern part of the country, al Qaeda in Syria appears to have recognized the need to secure legitimacy and present itself to the civilian population it seeks to influence as an authentically Syrian entity. To that end, in late January, al Qaeda’s ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Charles Lister, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, to discuss al Qaeda in Syria’s latest rebranding, how the group is expanding its influence across the country, and the implications for U.S. security. The Cipher Brief: How influential is al Qaeda in Syria? What ...

An integral component of U.S. counterterrorism strategy has centered on disrupting terrorist finances. Terrorist groups have exploited resources and industries in various countries – poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, charcoal mining in Somalia, and oil extraction in Iraq to name a few – to sell on the black market and subsequently ...

Hawala networks and terror finance are in the news again.  These networks have been used by ISIS in war-torn Syria and Iraq, and were reportedly used to help finance the 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris.  Hawala networks are still considered to be the national banking system of Afghanistan and are ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Celina Realuyo, Professor of Practice in the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at National Defense University, to discuss how terrorist groups have used hawala networks to transfer funds undetected to help support their operations. TCB: What are hawala networks? Celina Realuyo: ...

Tunisia is on the front lines of an evolving war against Jihadi-Salafism. The ideology espoused by al Qaeda and ISIS, has already drawn thousands of young Tunisians to the battlefields of Syria and Libya. Other adherents have committed numerous terrorist attacks in Tunisia since 2013, killing dozens of people and ...

After a 30 day review, the Department of Defense has delivered to the White House a preliminary plan to defeat ISIS.  While this is an admirable goal, defeating ISIS will only be a short-term fix to the problem of Islamic terrorism, just as defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) only ...

With the recent U.S. military raid in Yemen and the ongoing campaign in Mosul, the Trump Administration is so far continuing the United States’ longstanding counterterrorism strategy: conducting drone strikes to eliminate terrorist leaders; launching Special Forces operations to capture or kill high-value targets; and working with allies on the ...

As part of the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) during the Obama administration, Michael Ortiz helped develop and launch a new CVE strategy and also worked to build the case internationally for those efforts. The Cipher Brief’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke with Ortiz, the first U.S. ...

The Cipher Brief's Executive Producer and Reporter Leone Lakhani, spoke with Haras Rafiq, CEO of Quilliam, to discuss how the organization works to counter the narratives propagated by extremist groups. According to Rafiq, to effectively combat extremist narratives, we have to “use all the tools available to us, especially social ...

October’s attacks on the Border Guard Police bases by the insurgent group Harakah al-Yaqin (HaY) in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and their aftermath have raised concerns over whether the Rohingya crisis in that country, formerly known as Burma, might present an opportunity for expansion of international jihadism. The persecution of the ...

The struggle of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims is a regular topic of discussion on jihadist online message boards, frequently cited as the ultimate case of persecution against Muslims. For jihadists, it meets the standard of other constant grievances they frequently refer to, such as issues concerning jihadi prisoners, drone strikes, or ...

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has largely disappeared from the news since its military junta was replaced by a relatively reformist government after 2015 elections, and the country opened to the outside following an Obama administration push. Although no longer the pariah it was in past years, longstanding persecution of ...

On Sunday, U.S. Special Forces SEAL Team 6, killed Abdul Raouf al-Dhahab, a mid-level al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander, and two of his lieutenants in a joint air and ground assault in the central Yemeni governorate of al-Bayda. The special operations raid occurred against the backdrop of ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, to discuss the growing threat of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups in northwest Africa (Sahel region). According to Ghanem-Yazbeck, as evidenced by a spate of recent attacks, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb ...

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) propensity for kidnapping was back on display earlier this week, as al Qaeda’s North African branch released a video of Swiss Christian missionary Beatrice Stockly, who has been held captive by the terrorist group for more than a year. The recording of Stockly ...

Four years ago, French forces intervened in Mali, successfully averting an al Qaeda-backed thrust toward the capital of Bamako. The French operation went a long way toward reducing the threat that multiple jihadist groups posed to this West Africa nation. The situation in Mali today remains tenuous, however, and the ...

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emergence ten years ago this month was a Hail Mary. In 2004, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had orchestrated the second of two national amnesties in an attempt to finally bring an end to Algeria’s decade-old Islamist insurgency. The leader of one remaining terrorist ...

Editor’s Note: Over the coming days, The Cipher Brief presents some of our most incisive coverage on key issues of 2016 and a look ahead at what is yet to come in 2017. This past year brought no relief to those fighting the scourge of terrorism. Terrorists carried out horrific ...

Drone strikes have proven effective at eliminating terrorist leaders, yet terrorists continue to threaten American security. In this article written for the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Cipher Brief expert Kevin Hulbert describes how U.S. policymakers appear to be confusing a tactic such as drone strikes with an overall counterterrorism strategy.  ...

As ISIS incurs the firepower of the international community, al Qaeda has quietly rebuilt its resources, rebranded itself, and “rehabilitated its image” explains terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman. In an October interview with The Cipher Brief, Hoffman said al Qaeda has been “maneuvering to affect some kind of a forced merger ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Matthew Olsen, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to discuss the terrorist threat in the coming year. According to Olsen, the most pressing concern is the “potential uptick in the number of small-scale attacks” carried out by radicalized individuals, and that as ISIS ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Bruce Hoffman, Director for Security Studies at Georgetown University, to discuss President Obama’s counterterrorism legacy and the outlook for the terrorist threat in the coming year. According to Hoffman, although the U.S. has achieved “tactical gains” against al Qaeda and ISIS during Obama’s tenure, ...

In what many expect to be the final national security speech of his presidency, U.S. President Barack Obama reflected on U.S. counterterrorism achievements during his two terms as Commander-in-Chief, saying “We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years.” “No foreign terrorist organization ...

While lethal U.S. drone strikes have successfully removed many key terrorists from the battlefield, the legal justifications for such actions remains a heavily debated topic in the United States and globally. “Current U.S. drone policy is devoid of public understanding of the processes through which targeting decisions are made and ...

In the years since 9/11, drone strikes have emerged as a pillar of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. The Cipher Brief spoke with Bobby Chesney, Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Texas Law School about the legal basis for U.S. drone strikes abroad. ...

On September 24, Abu Khalid al-Sana’ani, a mid-level al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) commander, was killed by a U.S. airstrike as he and three other militants traveled through the oil-rich Yemeni governorate of Ma’rib, an active battleground in Yemen’s civil war. Sana’ani’s death marks 2016 as the deadliest year ...