Russia’s Defense Ministry released a statement Friday that it is investigating whether it had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, along with several other senior ISIS officials, in a May 28 airstrike that targeted a senior ISIS leadership meeting in a suburb of the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, ...

Last week, General Eduardo Ano, the Philippines Chief of Staff, said he hoped that the city of Marawi would be liberated from Islamist militants before June 12, the country’s Independence Day. The deadline has come and gone, but the fighting continues. Islamist militants still hold about a fifth of the ...

While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte remains at odds with the United States, the armed forces of the two countries have maintained a close working relationship that dates to 1951 and the signing of a mutual defense treaty. In recent years the primary mission of U.S. forces in the Philippines has ...

As a Catholic-majority nation with a large Muslim minority in the southern islands, the Philippines has struggled with religious strife for decades. While extremist violence is not a new phenomenon, ISIS’ powerful message calling for global jihad has galvanized cooperation among extremist groups and attracted foreign militants to fight in ...

The terrorist attacks on the Iranian Parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, marked the first time ISIS has been behind a major attack waged inside Iran and appeared to catch authorities by surprise.  At least 12 people were killed and more ...

ISIS has become infamous for using the Internet to radicalize and recruit individuals worldwide. Lesser known, however, are the tech-savvy ISIS supporters who dedicate their time and resources not only to advancing the group’s goals but also to safeguarding its online operations. The cumulative efforts of these supporters represent arguably ...

On Wednesday morning, assailants entered the Iranian Parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini – founder of the Islamic Republic – armed with assault rifles and explosive vests. Iranian authorities report that both sites have now been retaken and the attackers killed, but the assault has left at least ...

Attacks like Saturday’s one in London trigger information-sharing between allies, as well as domestic procedures to secure the homeland. Is there a concern about copycat attacks? What types of measures could U.S. authorities take? The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani asked Todd Rosenblum, former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland ...

Saturday night’s terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, the third such incident in the UK in the last three months, left seven dead and more than 30 others wounded, with 18 still in critical condition. London authorities have identified the three attackers as Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, from ...

In the wake of London’s recent terrorist attack, United States intelligence and security agencies are working around the clock to share information across the pond and at home, all the while looking for ways to learn from this incident and potentially reprioritize efforts related to domestic threats. “Right now, FBI ...

The weekend’s London attacks is the third in the UK this year and came as the UK was still reeling from a suicide bombing in Manchester on May 22nd that left 22 people dead. In March, four people were killed in London after a man rammed his car into pedestrians on ...

Tragedy in London after a series of terror attacks on Saturday left at least seven people dead and dozens injured, less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people in Manchester. It follows a series of dizzying events around the world last week. It began with perhaps the ...

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 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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: ...

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 ...

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) ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...