As the United Kingdom grapples with its third terrorist attack in three months, international counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing will be vital to confront the “new normal” of the evolving global threat of terrorism, experts told The Cipher Brief. At least seven people were killed and dozens injured on Saturday ...

The investigation into London’s Saturday attack is moving quickly with police arresting at least a dozen people in connection to the incident. It came less than two weeks after a suicide bombing in Manchester left 22 people dead. The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani asked Michael Leiter, former Director of the ...

After a multi-faceted attack in London on Saturday evening that saw a van with three assailants drive into pedestrians on London Bridge and then attack victims in the popular Borough Market shopping area nearby, the United Kingdom has now been the victim of terror three times in as many months. ...

After almost eight months of fighting, the battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, from ISIS is nearing its end. The Iraqi army has taken over 90 percent of the city and, although resistance will be fierce in the last remaining pocket of ISIS resistance in the Old City, the ...

After eight months of grinding conflict, Iraqi commanders are now confident that the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS is in its final phase. Pushing across the Tigris River, Iraqi Security Forces have liberated nearly all of western Mosul and, although defeating ISIS’ last stand in the densely packed urban ...

The battle for the strategic Iraqi city of Mosul has reached its final stage as Iraqi forces close in on the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Mosul’s Old City. The liberation of Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city and the capital of oil-rich Nineveh province, would mark a watershed moment in ...

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 ...

It is likely that Iraqi security forces and international partners will soon liberate Mosul from ISIS’ three-year hold. However, without proper governance over the city, security gains will be fleeting. In 2014, before ISIS’ takeover of Mosul, security in the city was divided amongst several competing political loyalties: Shiite-led Baghdad ...

President Donald Trump has to make a decision soon: what will he do in Afghanistan? The U.S. is now in its 16th year in the country, and top military and foreign policy advisors are advocating for an expanded military role. Experts told The Cipher Brief that the President must consider ...

On March 17, an airstrike allegedly carried out by coalition troops in Mosul, Iraq, killed a large number of civilians, with some reports putting the number of civilian deaths around 200. Officials at U.S. Central Command acknowledged it had opened a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment into the matter. The ...

Iraqi Kurdistan has been relatively stable in an otherwise troubled region. Unhappy with Iraq as their home, Kurds have fought successive Iraqi regimes since being annexed to the new state in 1926. The war against ISIS has produced a new crop of young military commanders, emboldened both by their bravery ...

On Thursday, the United States carried out an airstrike targeting ISIS in Afghanistan, dropping a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) on a tunnel and cave complex. The strike marked the first time the MOAB, nicknamed “Mother of All Bombs” has been used in combat operations. Afghan defense officials announced ...

Afghan defense officials announced Friday that 36 ISIS fighters were killed by a U.S. air strike on a tunnel and cave complex, with the possibility of a larger death toll. The strike was carried out on Thursday with a GBU-43 bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” marking the first ...

Before the civil war, few outside the Middle East had ever heard of Syria’s Kurds. Syria has by far the smallest Kurdish population of the four countries with Kurdish minorities. However, the Syrian Kurds have risen to international prominence as their most powerful political group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), ...

Syria has by far the smallest Kurdish population of any country with major Kurdish minorities. However, in the last two years, the Kurds of Syria have risen to local, regional, and international prominence. As the civil war grinds on, Syria's main Kurdish political group, the PYD, has become America's principal ...

Though the battle to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Mosul is slowly reaching its denouement, the campaign to take the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold of Raqqa has not experienced similar success. Insufficient combat-ready troops, a shortage of heavy artillery and ominous tensions between Kurds and Turks ...

The man who carried out a deadly terrorist attack in London was British-born and had been previously known to authorities, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday. Police named Khalid Masood, 52, as the Westminster attacker, who mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer inside ...

Despite its fearsome codename, Operation Wrath of Euphrates, the campaign by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to capture Raqqa from ISIS has progressed in fits and starts since its announcement on November 6th of last year. However, that changed this month, with the operation appearing to have accelerated and SDF ...

As Iraqi forces close in on ISIS fighters stranded in eastern Mosul - the group's last urban bastion in Iraq - U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are simultaneously closing in on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. Supported by coalition weapons, airstrikes, military advisers, and now several hundred U.S. Marines, the ...

Supported by coalition weapons, airstrikes, military advisers, and now several hundred U.S. Marines, the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced to within 50 kilometers of ISIS’capital in Raqqa. However, challenges, both tactical and political, remain ahead. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Adviser ...

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 ...

The Trump Administration last week announced it deployed hundreds of U.S. Marines and Army Rangers to Syria to support the campaign to take Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, from the extremist terror group. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with former U.S. Ambassador to Syria (2011-2014) ...

On January 28, President Donald Trump signed an order for the U.S. military to review the campaign against ISIS and develop a decisive plan to defeat it within 30 days. Given the threats that ISIS poses to our homeland, our allies, and partners, we argue this is the right approach. However, destruction of the ISIS “state” in Iraq and ...

A number of trends now seem to be accepted truths after nearly 16 years of fighting against jihadi terrorism. We have achieved concrete victories in the last two decades – killing Osama bin Laden, downgrading core al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and beating back the Islamic State (ISIS) in ...

President Trump wanted a military plan from his generals to “totally obliterate ISIS.” Instead, he is getting a series of political-military options put together not just by the Defense Department, but with input from the departments of State and Treasury, plus the Intelligence Community. “We’re in the business of providing ...

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 ...

This week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis is expected to deliver the 30-day review President Donald Trump ordered regarding the United States’ strategy to fight ISIS. The formal presidential memorandum, which was released on January 28, stated that “it is the policy of the United States that ISIS be defeated” ...

Last Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi appeared on Iraqi television to announce “a new phase in the operation” to retake Mosul. “We are coming to Nineveh,” he said, “to liberate [the] western side of Mosul” from the grasp of ISIS. This is welcome news. The fight to liberate ...

Last October, I published a summary of the coalition battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS in The Cipher Brief, stressing that inside the one battle there were six “campaigns” – military or political in nature – that would shape Middle Eastern and counter-terrorism developments. This piece updates that analysis in ...

The Trump Administration has inherited a complex set of problems in Iraq. Most pressing among them is the ongoing campaign to recapture Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, from ISIS. The operation to liberate Mosul has met fierce resistance, but Iraqi forces – with coalition aid – control the eastern half of ...

This week I am attending the RSA Conference, a global convention bringing together government and business approaches to secure the digital channels people depend on every day. To catch up on what has been buzzing in the public presentations and private corridors of this year’s RSA Conference, check out my ...

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 ...

The Middle East that the Trump Administration must now come to grips with is not the one Barack Obama envisioned leaving his successor when he took office eight years ago. Shortly after Obama entered office in 2009, the new U.S. president visited Cairo to give a landmark address to the Muslim ...

The Middle East went through maelstrom developments during the Obama Administration. Some of these were put into motion by the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Others, such as the Arab Spring, were the direct result of corrupt and brittle authoritarian regimes no longer capable of responding to their citizens’ aspirations ...

At first glance, it would appear that the Middle East President Donald J. Trump now faces is far different than the region which confronted President Barack Obama in 2009. The Arab uprisings of 2011 swept away the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. Civil war has rent apart and depopulated Syria, ...

Southeast Asia is emerging as an ISIS battlefield, and security threats in the region will accelerate and grow with the group’s global expansion – with an ISIS-centric threat landscape supplanting an al Qaeda-centric one. ISIS and al Qaeda groups, networks, and cells will threaten governments and societies in 2017, but ...

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 ...

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 ...

One of the most daunting foreign policy tasks facing the Trump Administration is determining America’s path forward in Afghanistan. From the time he launched his campaign until assuming the Oval Office two weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump has shied away from outlining a vision for Afghanistan, which begs the ...

As the Obama Administration enters its final week, the President’s foreign policy and security legacy is closely tied to two major themes: counterterrorism and cybersecurity.  The Cipher Brief’s Fionnuala Sweeney asked Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism about these two critical elements and what she ...

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.  ...

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 ...

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 ...