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 ...

Europe is used to dealing with crises. In fact, what we now call the European Union is a result of one of the biggest crises in modern history. But there is something different about the crises that Europe faces today: they are all happening at a time when solidarity within ...

The United States needs strong allies in Europe. The United States also needs European unity. This has been a recurrent theme in Barack Obama’s foreign policy since the start of his campaign for the presidency in 2007. It is a theme he borrowed from the second administration of George W. ...

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack like the one in Brussels this week, we naturally focus on the loss of life and the people seriously injured. But the damage is far more pervasive. Everyone in those communities—and beyond—are affected.  Fear and uncertainty become the norm, at least in the ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?  What is the threat to the U.S.? Matt Olsen: The threat in Europe from ISIS is greater than ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis? Mitch Silber: We need to make a distinction when we talk about ISIS networks. There are ISIS wannabe ...

The terrorist attacks in Brussels this week highlight two things:  First, the Islamic State is ramping up its efforts to attack the West, and second, Europe is fundamentally unprepared to confront the growing specter of violent radical Muslim extremism.  Tuesday’s attacks in the heart of Europe were tragic but certainly ...

The tragic events in Brussels on Tuesday once again brought to the forefront the seemingly never ending battle to fight the scourge of terrorism.   As has been the case, time and time again, suicide attackers set their sights on so-called soft targets, detonating their bombs at an airport and in ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America, and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?   Michael Hayden:  This attack was not surprising.  It was somewhere between expected and inevitable.  It’s right in ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, then Brussels.  How widespread are Islamic State networks in Europe, and can we expect these kind of attacks to continue? Quite clearly the recent history of attacks, certainly those in Paris and Brussels, shows a very substantial increase in threats linked more ...

As if we needed another reminder, the Brussels attacks bring into even sharper focus the specter of growing radical Muslim extremism and the threat it poses to the west.   Yesterday’s attacks in the heart of Europe were tragic, but sadly predictable.  Not predictable by exact time and place, but if ...

It is an horrific attack and the death toll is still mounting.  As always with terrorist attacks, the damage is not just the terrible loss of human life and people seriously injured but also the disruption of air and train transport, of business and diplomacy—the EU in Brussels had to ...

Despite territorial losses to its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, ISIS remains committed to spreading its ideological message, harsh rule, and terrorist tactics to new outposts. “This phenomenon is probably because committing terrorist operations abroad is embedded in the organization’s DNA,” wrote counterterrorist analyst Aki Peritz in The Cipher ...

The rise of the Islamic State and its spread across Africa and the Middle East may seem like a novel phenomenon, but it is hardly a first. In 1881, when an Islamic cleric in what was then called “the Sudan,” declared himself to be the Mahdi—the successor to the Prophet Muhammad ...

As goes its motto, The Islamic State is remaining and expanding. Even as the group faces growing military pressure in its core territories in Iraq and Syria, an increasing number of countries are facing the threat of Islamic State-affiliated groups within their own borders. Ultimately, this expansion is necessary to fulfilling ...

From its base in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has morphed into a worldwide jihadi network. Casting a vast net is part of ISIS’ grand strategy, which focuses on using terrorist tactics to establish an Islamic Caliphate across Muslim lands and attacking Western targets as part ...