When Father Jacques Hamel was brutally killed at his church in northern France this week, the religious community came together, demanding greater protection. The French government responded by saying it would put more police on the streets and bring in extra security reservists, with French President Francois Hollande announcing a National ...

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 ...

On the French holiday of Bastille Day, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating in Nice, killing 84. What does Bastille Day have to do with Islam? To the world, nothing. To the Islamic State, everything. The tragic truck attack in Nice is a manifestation ...

Defense and foreign ministers attended a flurry of meetings in Washington this week focused on the next steps in the fight against ISIS (also known as ISIL or Daesh), as plans for the long-awaited recapture of Mosul and longer-term stabilization and reconstruction efforts for Iraq come into focus. On Wednesday, ...

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) must be defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria, before it creates not only a physical, but also a cyber caliphate, said French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian at a Brookings Institution event on Wednesday. Le Drian – along ...

Europe is increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks because of the changing terrorism landscape.  Especially troublesome is the uptick in lone wolf attacks, particularly those that are ISIS-inspired, which may have been the case in Nice last Thursday, when 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove through a crowd of people celebrating Bastille ...

Last Thursday’s attack in Nice generates questions about France’s vulnerability to these kinds of threats and what the country and the region will do to respond. The Cipher Brief talked with Jeff Lightfoot, a senior associate at the Jones Group International and senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft ...

The attack in Nice, France that killed at least 84 people poses new questions regarding ISIS claims of responsibility: Does the automatic assumption of ISIS involvement, even before the group makes an official statement, boost the group’s image and prestige? If proof of an oath of allegiance, known as bay’ah, ...

One day before Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old Tunisian immigrant who killed 84 people by plowing a rented refrigerator truck into the Bastille Day crowd celebrating on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, a State Department official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that ISIS [the Islamic State] was “tapping into already ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Former Director of Analysis at the NYPD, Mitch Silber, to discuss the implications of Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. The Cipher Brief: What about France makes it a prime target for terrorist attacks, such as what we saw Thursday night in Nice? Mitch ...

While details continue to emerge about Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France, one thing remains clear: regardless of whether ISIS orchestrated the attack, inspired it, or had no connection to it whatsoever, the organization’s “prestige” among its supporters continues to rise after each terrorist incident. “In the early hours after ...

Whether ISIS had any connection with the terrorist attack in Nice, it really “doesn’t matter,” former CIA case officer and Soufan Group Director of Special Projects Patrick Skinner told The Cipher Brief in an interview.    We talked to Skinner about ISIS’ messaging and the difficulty the West has in responding ...

A slightly different version of this article appeared recently in the Washington Times.  General Hayden has requested that we reprint it in The Cipher Brief following Thursday’s horrific attack in Nice, France.  He believes that it has special relevance for the intelligence community today. I recently joined other former security officials to ...

The deadly spate of terrorist attacks that have been connected to ISIS over the last week and throughout the holy month of Ramadan demonstrate the group’s deadly global reach even as it loses territory in Iraq and Syria. As Ramadan draws to a close, attacks seemingly directed or inspired by ...

The horrific attacks in Brussels and Istanbul are stark reminders that much work must be done to protect the vulnerable front side of airports. It appears that ISIS and others have identified this vulnerability and are successfully exploiting it.  Tactics used in Istanbul were different than those used in Brussels, ...

The United States is involved in a “global, and long-term effort to defeat ISIL (the Islamic State), and ensure that other violent extremist groups, such as Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, cannot rise from its ashes.” That was Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama’s Special Envoy for the ...

The three suicide bombers who carried out Tuesday’s deadly attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport have been identified by a Turkish official as citizens of Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, according to press reports. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed at least 44 people and wounded hundreds more, ...

More than two years after fighters from the Islamic State  (ISIS) captured the city of Fallujah, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) liberated the embattled city last Sunday, paving the way for the long-awaited march against the group’s largest stronghold in Mosul. Although welcome news, the war is far from over. Even ...

The beginning of the end of ISIS’s dominance over the Sunni Arab region of Iraq is at hand, following the Iraqi security forces’ clearance of ISIS from most of Fallujah, the first Iraqi city to fall to the terrorist group. Only one major Iraqi city remains in ISIS’ hands: Mosul. While ...

Last Sunday, Iraqi forces announced that Fallujah, the first major city captured by the Islamic State (ISIS) has been fully liberated. This is a significant win for the coalition fighting ISIS, allowing plans for the campaign to regain control of Mosul to begin. However, victory in Fallujah masks deeper problems. ...

Bosnia and Kosovo are two of the biggest exporters of jihadists joining the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) from the Balkans. As The Cipher Brief reported last month, legacies of the Communist era and the wars of the 1990s – presence of foreign fighters, economic and ...

Those who use radical and extremist methods to achieve their political goals employ the most horrifying and inhumane ways to kill, terrorize, and punish people, and do so with a high level of resilience and transformative abilities. The skills and intimidation they utilize allow them to successfully recruit among communities ...

Every second year is an election year in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For this “heart shaped land” in the center of the forever-stigmatized Western Balkans, local and general elections have become the ideal stage for nationalist leaders to not only remind citizens of the dangers that permeate their country, but also ...

Despite a recent wave of terrorist attacks in northern Jordan, the country’s government remains strong. In fact, according to Sultan Barakat, Director of Research at Brookings Doha Center, “it is quite remarkable, despite the recent attacks, that things are reasonably good.” However, Barakat cautions that stability “can’t just be maintained ...

Often hailed as an island of stability amidst a region of chaos, Jordan’s security remains an issue of paramount importance for the United States. Jordan’s close cooperation with Washington has proven vital to U.S. endeavors in the Middle East, with Amman playing a critical role in the U.S.-led coalition to ...

On June 6, five Jordanians were killed during an assault on a General Intelligence complex twelve miles north of Amman. The incident was Jordan’s largest terrorist attack in more than a decade. With its unabashedly pro-west, pro-peace orientation, King Abdullah’s Jordan has long been a target of Islamist militants, but ...

Last Thursday, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the current capabilities of the Islamic State saying, “despite all of our progress against ISIL (also known as ISIS) on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not ...

Libya’s UN-brokered Government of National Unity (GNA) has so far failed to unite the country’s competing regional and tribal factions and, by early June, the body faced heavy criticism from Libyans across the country due to the escalating currency crisis, the rapid collapse of public services, and the continuing tug-of ...

As Kurdish forces battle the Islamic State (ISIS) on the frontlines in Iraq and Syria and the government in Baghdad struggles to preserve a cohesive Iraq, the calls for an independent Kurdistan have never been more pronounced. “I believe that it is in the best interest of Kurdistan to become ...

For much of the past century, the Kurds have rebelled against their respective rulers only to be brutally crushed each time. The 21st century is proving less cruel. More than two decades of upheaval unleashed by Iraq’s ill-fated invasion of Kuwait and accelerated by the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein ...

The UN-backed Government of National Accord’s Misratan-led Bunyan Al Marsus operation room made significant gains against IS this week, advancing to within 30km Sirte. So far the operation has cost 72 lives -- mostly Misratan fighters -- and over 150 injured. However, while the operations room is directly established by ...

Three interlinked conflict dynamics are discernible from last week’s developments on the ground: 1) increased lawlessness and militia rivalry in Tripoli and the western region; 2) increasing momentum of the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Misratan-led assault on ISIS; and 3) rising tension between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and ...

The 1990s Yugoslav wars disintegrated a nation and created a fractured Balkans that continues to deal with ethnic strife and political instability. The wars also opened the door for the development of Islamic extremist ideologies. The former Yugoslav region has a history of moderate Islam. But during the communist era, ...

The Balkan states are facing a series of problems. Geopolitical rivalry is stoking tensions in the region, Turkey has become more assertive in promoting its interests, and the U.S. still wants to incorporate the Western Balkans into NATO, while Russia considers the Balkans its own backyard. EU membership remains the main goal for ...

With minds focused on the number of Western European foreign fighters joining ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks, violent jihadism in the Western Balkans has not received the same level of international attention. Yet, as the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) ...

Strikes and continuous violence have strained the fresh Aleppo cease-fire the United States and Russia brokered this week, leaving experts doubtful any cessation of hostilities will hold. The U.S. on Wednesday announced the “regime of calm” had been extended to the city of Aleppo and its surrounding districts, where a ...

Our basic understanding of the Islamic State’s ambitions, and its justifications of those ambitions, remains muddled. “Remaining and expanding” and “a caliphate on the Prophet methodology” are its bumper sticker slogans, but these do not answer the questions of why the group uses ultraviolence, why its narrative is so closely ...

Is ISIS Islamic?  Probably not.  Is it Islamist?  Definitely.  An Islamist is one who believes in a version of Islam which would impose a politicized interpretation of the faith over all of society by law. The concept is modernist and overturns more than a millennium of Islamic jurisprudence. Historically, Islam ...

Broadcasting brutal murder videos, enslaving religious minorities, training and deploying child soldiers, carrying out suicide bombings at crowded intersections – these are just some of the heinous crimes committed by the Islamic State (ISIS). To a certain extent, such acts mirror tactics employed by other violent extremist and paramilitary groups, ...

In the self-created mythical world that Donald Trump has conjured up through his GOP presidential nomination campaign, the Islamic State terrorists will be gone “very, very, quickly” should he be sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief next January 20. “Their days are numbered,” he told a Washington audience last Wednesday ...

When Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook killed 14 people at a holiday office party in San Bernardino, California, the detail that stood out the most is that the perpetrators were a man and a woman, and that Tashfeen was not just a woman but a mother.  Indeed, that the couple ...

In light of the ongoing military coup attempt in Istanbul, here is The Cipher Brief's recent feature explaining the myriad problems facing Turkey.  We will bring you more analysis on the situation as the story develops. Facing an intensifying cycle of violence, a president seeking to consolidate power, and a ...

In the late 1970s, Turkey experienced a convulsion of political violence between leftist and rightist factions that killed almost five thousand people by the time the military pushed out the government in a September 1980 coup d’état. The respite from violence was relatively brief, however. Since the mid-1980s, the terrorists ...

The recent wave of violence in Turkey can be grouped into three categories. The first is the operations led by Turkish security forces in parts of eastern and southeastern Turkey to clear neighborhoods of their PKK (The Kurdistan Worker’s Party) presence. This strategy emerged as a response to the second ...

It’s time to take a closer look at the national security views of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). At a campaign rally in the Bronx on March 31, Sanders told a crowd of over 15 thousand, “We are determined that instead of spending trillions of dollars on a ...

Despite some recent successes against ISIS, including military strikes against top leaders such as Hajji Imam and the Russian-backed Syrian victory against ISIS in Palmyra, ISIS’s core control of a Britain-sized swath of Syria and Iraq is still solid.   Meanwhile, Iraq remains under military, terrorist and financial pressure with hundreds ...

Michael Morell, the former Deputy Director and twice Acting Director of CIA, spoke with The Cipher Brief about battling ISIS and how the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week could impact U.S. and European strategies moving forward.  The Cipher Brief:  A week has passed since the attacks in Brussels.  Can ...

This morning, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the death of ISIS’ number two leader, Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Haji Imam. In addition to serving as ISIS’ chief financial minister, Al-Qaduli reportedly played a critical role in overseeing ISIS’ daily operations and maintained a close ...