BOOK REVIEW:  Hunting the Caliphate: America's War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell By Dana J.H. Pittard and Wes J. Bryant Reviewed by Brian Raymond Brian Raymond served as National Security Council Director for Iraq from 2014-2015. He participated in numerous meetings with President Obama in the ...

The killings of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his possible deputy by U.S. special operations forces are major losses for the extremists, ones that are likely to usher in a period of chaos and improvisation among ISIS fighters. But it would be a fatal mistake to assume that the deaths have destroyed ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s sending U.S. military troops to control the oil fields in northern Syria can only be interpreted as introducing financial deal-making into his running of U.S. foreign and national security policies. Trump made clear in his Sunday press conference that he sees control of the Syrian oil ...

The demise of Osama bin Laden in 2011 did not end al-Qaeda. Nor will the apparent demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi end the terror of the Islamic State. Al-Baghdadi’s death is a major psychological blow to the so-called Islamic State (the terror group also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL, or ...

More details are emerging about  just how U.S. commandos located and cornered ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend as well as questions about how much intelligence was gathered from Baghdadi's compound. Reuters reports that  Iraqi intelligence teams gathered details about Baghdadi's movements from a former top aide in February ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 26, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in northern Syria near the Turkish border. The October 27th announcement by President Trump marks another shift for a group that has persisted as a 'brand' and global insurgency for years. ...

Cipher Brief Expert Norman T. Roule served for 34-years in the Central Intelligence Agency, managing numerous programs relating to Iran and the Middle East.   He served as the National Intelligence Manager for Iran (NIM-I) at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from November 2008 until September 2017.  As ...

Bruce Hoffman is a professor at Georgetown University and Visiting Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Council on Foreign Relations.  He has served as a commissioner on the Independent Commission to Review the FBI’s Post-9/11 Response to Terrorism and Radicalization, a Scholar-in-Residence for Counterterrorism at the CIA, and ...

REVIEW: Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It by Richard Stengel Reviewed by Cindy L. Otis Cindy L. Otis served in the CIA as a military analyst, intelligence briefer, and manager in the Directorate of Intelligence. While at the CIA, ...

Gary Grappo is a former U.S. ambassador who served as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman; and Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As a career member ...

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is defending President Trump’s decision to withdraw support for Kurdish troops in Northeast Syria, saying Turkey has a “legitimate security concern’.  Meanwhile, other countries, along with both Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the U.S., are condemning the move calling it a betrayal ...

On 23 May, John Walker Lindh was released after spending 17 years in a U.S. prison. The notorious “American Taliban”, convicted of providing support to a terrorist organization, will be kept under observation for years. That close supervision, however, cannot guarantee that he would be incapable (some would say “or ...

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people and injured 500 more.  A government official said an early investigation indicated the attacks could have been carried out in retaliation for a terrorist attack at two mosques last month ...

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people and injured 500 more.  Sri Lanka’s government is blaming the attacks on a local Islamist group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).  A government official said an early investigation indicated the attacks ...

The Cipher Brief was recently invited to take part in the University of New Mexico’s Intelligence Symposium, covering a number of national (and international) security issues.    We took the opportunity to speak with UNM’s Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute (and Cipher Brief expert) Emile Nakhleh, ...

On 23 March, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the capture of Baghouz, the last remaining ISIS stronghold in Syria. This may arguably mark the end of the physical caliphate, but the question of whether ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria remains a point of heated debate. Too much of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On March 19, the coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State announced it was finally in control of Baghouz, IS’ last openly held territory in Syria. With tens of thousands of IS fighters and their families now captured, pressure is rapidly escalating as detention centers grow ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Even after the collapse of the territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State will live on through its franchise and affiliate groups. Among the most capable affiliates are those in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Islamic State Khorasan Province in Afghanistan and IS’ branch ...

This week’s release of the Intelligence Community’s unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment made clear which groups the IC believes pose the greatest terrorist threats to the U.S. in 2019. The list of terrorist organizations includes: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Homegrown Violent Extremists (‘likely to present the most acute Sunni terrorist threat to ...

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats released the Worldwide Threat Assessment on Tuesday, with Intelligence Community leaders briefing Senators on the biggest threats facing the U.S. While The Cipher Brief will cover all aspects of the broader threat matrix that includes China, Russia and North Korea, this week we are ...

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack at a cathedral in the Philippines that left at least 21 people dead and scores injured. Earlier this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack in Syria that targeted and killed four Americans, one of them a Green Beret.  Al-Shabab, the terrorist group ...

There is considerable debate over whether ISIS in Syria has been defeated to a significant enough degree that it would not be able to quickly rebuild as soon as U.S. troops leave Syria.  As part of our special coverage on Syria, The Cipher Brief spoke with Dr. Kimberly Kagan, the ...

The 19 December announcement by President Trump to withdraw ground troops from Syria was surprising to everyone but should have come as a shock to no one. Here's why: First, ISIS may not be destroyed, but one is hard pressed to suggest that it remains an existential threat to the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 19, 2018, President Trump unexpectedly announced a full withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria within the next 30 days. This pronouncement is at odds with the administration’s current strategy, as well as counsel of top military leadership. The Defense Department has strongly ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 11th, there was a terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.  While the suspect was known to the authorities, he was merely one name on a list of approximately 20,000 in France who are suspected of ‘radicalization.’ With the collapse of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Despite being well-known for producing high numbers of foreign fighters, Central Asian countries, especially Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, have been mostly spared from domestic terrorist attacks. Global terrorism trends signal a shift in focus and re-location to Central Asia, however, increasing the terrorism threat in the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Approximately 700 children were born in the caliphate to parents from Western countries, although many European governments are either unsure of what to do next or unwilling to let these children ‘return’ to their parents’ countries of origin. Some children witnessed killings, beheadings, and unspeakable ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On November 6, the United Nations stated it had found over 200 mass graves in Iraq in areas once held by the Islamic State. The UN assessment of at least 12,000 people buried in these mass graves is likely an underestimate of the murders committed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On November 4, Egyptian officials announced they had killed 19 militants in the aftermath of an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt. On November 2, attackers ambushed 3 buses carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo, killing seven people; the Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility. In ...

Bottom Line Up Front Although it receives less attention than the so-called Islamic State or IS franchise groups in places like Libya and Afghanistan, the IS affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula poses a major threat to regional stability. Despite boasting the Arab world’s largest conventional ground force, the Egyptian military ...

Bottom Line Up Front Last week, it was revealed that several individuals in Denmark were arrested trying to purchase drones they intended to send to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The use of drones and other emerging technologies by terrorists and violent non-state actors is not science fiction, ...

Bottom Line Up Front: On September 27, the U.S. Defense Department reported that 1114 civilians have been unintentionally killed in anti-Islamic State airstrikes since August 2014. The monitoring group Airwars has counted 6575 civilians killed by coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria throughout the same time period. Russia incredulously denies ...

Bottom Line Up Front: According to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, there are perhaps as many as 10,000 al-Qaeda affiliated fighters, and their families, remaining in Idlib Province. These violent extremists are intermingled with an estimated 2.9 million people who are now essentially trapped in Idlib with no ...

As the anniversary of 9/11approaches, it brings a time of deep reflection, not only on what was lost on that day in 2001, but also on what has been lost by the U.S. since (Benghazi, 2012) and how to assess, and stop the global threat of terrorism. Cipher Brief Expert ...

From ‘Remain and Expand’ to ‘Adapt and Evolve’ Small pockets of Islamic State fighters have regrouped throughout parts of Iraq and Syria. Jihadists are becoming more brazen, executing coordinated attacks on security services and oil fields. The Islamic State’s remaining war chest could prove to be sufficient for the group ...

A United Nations report delivered to the Security Council last month offered a stark reminder that al Qaeda remains a serious threat around the world.  The report suggested that the de-centralized terrorist network is stronger than ISIS in countries like Yemen and Somalia.      The report was issued just before ...

Indonesia was hit by a series of deadly bombings this past May.  The attacks targeted churches and were carried out by families with young children, including a family of six in Surbaya, Indonesia’s second largest city.   Indonesian police say an attack at police headquarters the following morning was carried out ...

Update: June 18, 2018 - Despite an incredibly rare ceasefire between the Afghan Government and the Taliban in observance of Eid al-Fitr, two deadly suicide bombings rocked Jalalabad over the weekend.   Officials said the latest attack in eastern Nangarhar Province killed at least 18 people and wounded as many as ...

Over the weekend, ISIS claimed responsibility for two deadly attacks: in Paris, France, a Chechnyan-born man stabbed five people and released a video pledging allegiance to the group; in Indonesia, suicide bombers detonated explosives at three churches in Surabaya, the second largest city in the country. Though the terror group continues ...

Following the near destruction of ISIS in Iraq and in the U.S. “zone” in northeastern Syria, and then a call recently by President Donald Trump to pull out of Syria, administration officials, pundits and foreign leaders have all urged the president to keep troops in Syria. As justification, these officials—including ...

With increasingly confusing statements and actions from the White House and the Pentagon on U.S. policy toward Syria, The Cipher Brief presented a live briefing from Amman, Jordan with Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Chief of Middle East operations, Robert Richer during the 2018 Threat Conference.  Richer talked about ...

Bottom Line: Relations between Egypt and Israel have often been referred to as a “cold peace,” but the emergence of mutual security threats over the past few years has facilitated a growing partnership between the former enemies. Specifically, Egypt and Israel have expanded their cooperation on the security front to combat ...

U.S. officials are working to protect the continental U.S. from possible chemical attack by ISIS followers in the Mideast, who are plotting to bring chlorine or other “simple” weapons of mass destruction to America’s shores, U.S. officials told The Cipher Brief Wednesday. The U.S. has intercepted “chatter” by ISIS followers ...

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: ISIS maintains a strong presence in Libya and remains a potent regional threat, despite domestic and international efforts to oust the group from its stronghold. After losing their former base of operations along the Libyan coast, ISIS fighters have regrouped and established training centers and operational headquarters in ...

Does the Trump administration have a viable strategy for Syria -- and the tools and capability to carry it out? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to articulate his interpretation of the goals in a Jan. 17 speech at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. But when read closely, the ...

The framers of the U.S. Constitution decided 230 years ago to divide the nation’s war powers between the president and the Congress, making the president the commander in chief of the armed forces and giving the lawmakers the exclusive power to declare war. Yet, as 2018 gets underway, the executive ...

Bottom Line: With the original ISIS core nearly expelled from its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, other ISIS branches are growing in influence and lethality. Skilled fighters and funding are flowing to ISIS Khorasan Province in Afghanistan where the group has taken advantage of the country’s weak central government ...

Autonomous vehicles such as those being tested by Google or Tesla will be one of the most important and disruptive technologies for the future of how people move, work and live. But terrorist groups are tracking these developments closely too. Finnish security firm F-Secure reports “concrete evidence” that ISIS is considering ...

The Friday prayer massacre of more than 300 worshipers at a Sinai was a departure for the local Islamic State affiliate in scale, but not in targets – they’ve hit Sufi Muslims before. The group’s continued growth in the Sinai points to decades of neglect by the Egyptian government, combined ...