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 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 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 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 ...

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 ...

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. ...

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) 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 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. ...

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 ...

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 ...

Regardless of its name change and highly publicized “split” from al Qaeda this past summer, Jabhat Fateh-al Sham (JFS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, remains firmly on the United States’ terrorist radar. “We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves,” said U.S. State Department ...

Three months after its “split” from al Qaeda, which in reality is simply a feint, Jabhat Fateh al Sham (JFS), formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra, may pose a more significant long-term threat to the West than the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While the West targets ISIS, JFS is quietly ...

The battle to liberate Mosul in Iraq from the tentacles of the Islamic State (ISIS) is turning attention away from Syria, where fighting continues to rage. And whenever attention to Syria is given, ISIS remains a key focus. This may be understandable considering ISIS—and not any other armed group in ...

The United States and its allies are consumed by their battle with ISIS, but to many terrorism experts, al Qaeda remains a serious force to be reckoned with, one that is actually increasing in strength.  The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation ...

Fifteen years to the date after the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda still remains a force to be reckoned with. And with international attention focused on decimating the Islamic State’s (ISIS) capabilities and ISIS continually losing both ground in its self-declared caliphate and strongholds around the globe, ...

When contemplating some of the challenges of Vietnam many years ago, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger commented that in a guerrilla war, the guerrilla army wins if it does not lose, while the conventional army loses if it does not win.  This is the sort of situation we find ...

How safe is America today? How safe is the world? As we mark the passage of 15 years since September 11, 2001, many surveys indicate that we humans feel pretty darn unsafe. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently found that 42 percent of Americans feel less safe today than ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Matthew Olsen, Former Head of the National Counterterrorism Center to discuss the progress that the U.S. has made over the last 15 years in the War on Terror. According to Olsen, “While we’ve been successful in preventing large-scale attacks,” the U.S. must continue to ...

Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, the date that altered the trajectory of America’s national security apparatus. The country’s focus turned from defending against hostile nation-states to undertaking significant counterterrorism measures and bureaucratic reforms in the wake of an unprecedented terrorist threat. The concentrated effort to combat terrorism became ...

Reflecting on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas said that there have been both successes and room for improvement as the U.S. campaign against terrorism continues. The efforts of the U.S. intelligence community “should be credited for why there has not been another foreign-planned terrorist attack ...

The history of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a tale of 1001 nights that catalogues every dimension of frustration in combatting terrorism: an impoverished failing state, a heavily armed society with a warrior subculture, persistent and resilient adversaries, corrupt and duplicitous governors, shifting tribal loyalties, sectarian divisions ...

The recent “cancellation” of Jabhat al Nusra’s operations along with the formation of a new entity independent from al Qaeda, named Jabhat Fatah al Sham, appears to signal the decline of al Qaeda as a global movement. Instead, however, it is al Qaeda’s latest ploy to buy time to set ...

Like a divorced couple in a bitter custody battle, al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s (ISIS) leaders can’t help but to denounce each other in the ugliest of terms. In the latest salvo, AQ chief Ayman al-Zawahiri said earlier this month ISIS’ leaders are “officers…of Saddam” and anyone who swears ...

Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is "splitting" from the al Qaeda network. During a news conference earlier today, Nusra leader Abu-Muhammad al-Joulani appeared on television to announce his group’s severing of ties with al Qaeda and the formation of a new independent organization known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.  ...

This is a good moment to assess the state of ISIS – its strengths and weaknesses – given that America is heading into a bruising presidential campaign during which all sorts of claims will be made about the ISIS challenge. Looking at all that has occurred since the group’s 2014 ...

The latest terrorist attack in Nice, France on Thursday, reminded us of the long struggle in the global war on terrorism since 9/11.  The West has been buffeted by one attack after another lately, and despite our aggressive efforts worldwide, the enemy is resilient and the fight has changed since ...