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Category: Terrorism & Extremism

Oct. 1, 2017

Follow the Money: Targeting Enemy War-Sustaining Activities

We see them every day on the highways and byways of America—18-wheel trailers and tankers hauling the goods and resources that drive the American economy. From this commerce, revenue is developed, and from this revenue, taxes are drawn—taxes that ultimately provide the manpower and equipment for the Nation’s Armed Forces. If the so-called Islamic State (IS) were to attack these vehicles on America’s highways, we would call it terrorism. Take those same tankers, however, fill them with oil drawn from or refined in IS-controlled fields or facilities, target them on a north-bound dirt road in Syria or Iraq, as U.S. and coalition forces have been doing in Operation Inherent Resolve, and what would we call it? We would call it the lawful use of force against a military objective. So, what is the difference?

June 19, 2017

Strategic Competition: Beyond Peace and War

The struggle Morgenthau describes results in an evolving international distribution of power. After World War II, the majority of global power was divided between two poles until the fall of the Soviet Union gave rise to a unipolar system. The transformation of the international order continues today as rising powers join established powers, such as the United States, Japan, and the European Union, on the international stage. Although a more balanced distribution of power may have economic and humanitarian benefits, political and military tensions frequently accompany major transitions in the international order. Beyond the strains inherent as rising powers clash with those more established, the lack of globally dominant hegemons in a system of distributed power creates opportunities for revisionist state and nonstate actors to pursue their own, sometimes perilous, ambitions.

Jan. 26, 2017

Hybrid Threat Center of Gravity Analysis: Taking a Fresh Look at ISIL

Debates continue in the media, military, and foreign policy circles about the national strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Imbedded within these debates are fundamental disagreements about ISIL’s strategic and operational centers of gravity. Correctly identifying the center of gravity (COG) of an adversary is critical to designing an operational approach to defeat him. On the other hand, misidentifying the center of gravity is the clearest path to defeat against any foe—especially a hybrid one. An assessment of ISIL’s center of gravity is critical to developing a suitable operational design aimed at its defeat. The first order of business, however, is to determine if ISIL is a hybrid actor and, if so, how that impacts our analysis.

Dec. 12, 2016

Chapter 7 | Countering Terrorism

The United States faces an unprecedented threat from terrorism today: two transregional networks actively plot attacks, recruit foreign fighters, and seek to inspire “lone wolf” terrorists. But this threat is manageable. Rather than trying to defeat terrorist adversaries, U.S. strategy should emphasize reducing the risk of significant attacks in the homeland, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia. In addition to homeland security measures, such a strategy would be characterized by a shift, and likely an increase, in the placement of U.S. special operations forces and intelligence assets overseas. Managing this threat would also require greater coordination with, and persistence from, other instruments of national power, including diplomacy and law enforcement. The key counterterrorism challenge for a new administration, therefore, is how to develop and sustain a strategy that manages this threat persistently, without being on a constant war footing.

Oct. 29, 2016

The Return of Foreign Fighters to Central Asia: Implications for U.S. Counterterrorism Policy

Central Asia is the third largest point of origin for Salafi jihadist foreign fighters in the conflagration in Syria and Iraq, with more than 4,000 total fighters joining the conflict since 2012 and 2,500 reportedly arriving in the 2014–2015 timeframe alone. As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to lose territory under duress from U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition activities, some predict that many may return home bent on jihad and generating terror and instability across Central Asia.

July 1, 2015

Islamic Radicalization in Kenya

An attack carried out by the al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013 drew renewed attention to the extremist threat facing that country. This attack was only the latest in a string of terrorist incidents stretching back to the late 1990s. It should serve as a stark reminder to the U.S. that terrorism remains a significant threat to its national interests in Kenya and in the Horn of Africa more generally.

July 1, 2015

Three Approaches to Center of Gravity Analysis: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Since the establishment of the center of gravity (COG) concept as a fundamental planning factor in joint military doctrine, its proper identification has been considered crucial in successful attainment of desired objectives. Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Operation Planning, states, “This process cannot be taken lightly, since a faulty conclusion resulting from a poor or hasty analysis can have very serious consequences, such as the inability to achieve strategic and operational objectives at an acceptable cost.”

Sept. 1, 2014

The Rising Terrorist Threat in Tanzania: Domestic Islamist Militancy and Regional Threats

Despite its reputation for peace and stability in a troubled region, the East African country of Tanzania is experiencing a rising number of militant Islamist attacks that have targeted local Christian leaders and foreign tourists, as well as popular bars and restaurants. These attacks, which began in 2012, rarely make the headlines of international media. However, they should serve as a wake-up call for U.S. policymakers to increase short-term engagement with Tanzanian officials and support for Tanzanian security agencies to preempt the emergence of a more significant threat to U.S. and international interests in East Africa.

July 1, 2011

Countering the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is one of Africa’s most brutal militia forces. It has plagued Central Africa, particularly northern Uganda, for over two decades. The group’s tactics provide textbook examples of war crimes and crimes against humanity. When attacking civilians, the LRA instills fear by selecting random individuals for brutal executions. Children are abducted to serve as porters, sex slaves, and new militia. In order to indoctrinate child soldiers, young abductees are routinely forced to kill their own family members and other children, or be murdered themselves. Anyone caught trying to escape from the LRA is summarily executed. By contrast with other African rebel groups, which occasionally adopt such brutal tactics, the LRA has conducted such atrocities on a systematic and prolonged basis.