Terrorism and Insurgency

Air Campaign Against ISIS Is Just Getting Off the Ground

The stated objective of the American-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—language carefully crafted to imply a gradual process that may take months, even years. Yet just over two months into the campaign, some are already asking for results. The United […]

What Could US Boots on the Ground Do in Iraq and Syria?

“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.” Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit song, “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” became wildly popular with GIs during the Vietnam War, where the lyrics took on a more bellicose meaning. In discussions of […]

What Are ISIS’s Options Now?

In domestic debates about what the United States should do to blunt the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Americans often forget that the adversary also has options. A determined force, ISIS will counter the bombing campaign. In publicizing its brutal murder of two American journalists, ISIS must have anticipated […]

Brothers Killing Brothers

The Current Infighting Will Test al Qaeda’s Brand. Terrorists often resolve internal disputes the old-fashioned way: They kill each other. Battles between rival rebel groups and within terrorist organizations are not uncommon. Internal feuds have characterized terrorist movements throughout modern history, from the Russian Revolution to the Palestinian civil war. In February 2014, members of […]

Nigeria’s Inescapable Burden

History shows rescuing hostages is a difficult and bloody business. There is much we do not know about the circumstances of the 220 young Nigerian schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram. Where are they being held? Are they still together in a single group or dispersed into smaller groups? Have some already been “sold” and […]

How Safe is America Today?

How Safe is America Today?

Terrorism expert and leading advisor to Rand Brian Michael Jenkins argues that while we need a a public conversation about security and privacy, security must restrict some civil liberties for the greater good. Watch the full video here.

Fight Today’s Terrorist Threat, Not Yesterday’s

The U.S. must constantly update its surveillance and information-sharing procedures. Domestic counterterrorism efforts have been largely successful since 9/11. All but four of the more than 40 known terrorist plots by homegrown jihadists have been thwarted by authorities. But this effort faces serious challenges as it seeks to counter an ever-evolving and increasingly diverse terrorist […]

The Terrorist Threat to the Sochi Olympics

Concern over security when the world’s athletes gather for Olympic competition has persisted for decades, but the terrorist threat to next week’s winter games in Sochi, Russia, appears to be more substantial than ever. From the Black September attacks on Israeli athletes in 1972, to the post 9/11 games in Salt Lake City, to the […]

The Real Homeland Security Issues for 2014

Americans need a new debate about the threats, risks, and costs. As Congress sets its agenda for hearings and legislation relating to homeland security, we can anticipate some of the issues it will address. Expect discussion about whether al-Qaida is on the run or on the rebound, new legislative initiatives on how to deal with the […]

Why Did Terrorists Attack Volgograd?

Who and what could be behind the attacks in Russia? Terrorist attacks are intended to be public events. We quickly know what happened and where, but unless the terrorists accompany the attack with a claim of responsibility and an explanation, figuring out who did it, why they chose a particular location or target and what […]

Should the United States End Assistance to Syria’s Rebels?

The United States announced recently that it was suspending aid to the rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This comes amidst reports that other Western countries are now gradually withdrawing their military support to the rebel forces. Should the suspension of U.S. assistance be made permanent? There are some good […]

Limited U.S. Military Strikes Do Not Unseat Dug-in Dictators

Facing the possibility of U.S. military attack, Bashar al-Assad should worry about his long-term future. But based upon the historical record, any American military attack is more likely to be aimed at coercion than at threatening his immediate survival as president of Syria. The U.S. has launched a series of measured air attacks in recent […]

What’s Next for the Muslim Brotherhood?

Where can the organization ousted in a coup go now? Egypt’s future trajectory rests not only on the policies of Egypt’s current military leaders, but also on the strategy adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood. Even before the army cleared protesters from their strongholds in the streets of Cairo and began arresting those Brotherhood leaders who were […]

What Would al Qaeda’s PowerPoints Say?

It seems unlikely that al Qaeda holds conference calls to do business, and they probably don’t use PowerPoints. But for the sake of discussion, what if they did? And if they held one today, what would their presentation look like? To al Qaeda, there would be much about which to gloat: Slide one: “We have […]

Could Terrorists Pull Off a Mumbai-Style Attack in the U.S.?

The odds are long, but not impossible. Recently, I was asked to prepare testimony for a congressional hearing examining the possibility that an armed terrorist attack – similar to the 2008 attack that killed 162 people in Mumbai – could happen in the United States. As I was preparing my remarks, a 23-year-old man dressed in black and carrying high-powered weapons […]

Crowd-sourcing Our Security

The investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing highlighted growing public participation in protecting communities against terrorism. People on the scene before the medical teams arrived were the real first responders, as ordinary citizens always are in such cases. Shocked by the attack, Bostonians were eager to assist authorities in running the bombers down before they […]

The Day After: How will the Boston Marathon bombing change the way America fights terrorism?

We have the measure of the tragedy in Boston, the tally of dead and injured, those who have lost limbs, those who remain in critical condition, the incalculable grief and sorrow Americans share. But what will be the long-term consequences of this attack? Much will depend on who is found to be responsible, how soon, […]

When Armies Divide: Securing Nuclear Arsenals During Internal Upheavals

The Pentagon reportedly has secret plans to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons against terrorists, a jihadist coup, or civil war. It also has conducted war games to explore how it might try to secure North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in case of a coup or collapse of the regime. Either of these missions would be a daunting military task, […]

Drug Cartels an X-Factor for Obama, Peña Nieto

The war on Mexico’s criminal cartels dominated the presidency of Felipe Calderon. If the country’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has his way, it will not dominate his administration. And although the United States applauded and supported Calderon’s campaign, absent evidence that Mexico’s ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional is returning to the bad old days of […]

The Motivations Behind the Amenas Terrorist Attack

First in a three-part series of observations in the aftermath of the Amenas terrorist attack in Algeria. Read part 2 and part 3. If the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi held any lessons for government officials who must make immediate assessments, eager-to-be-interviewed experts, or critics ready to point fingers, it was this: What […]

WMD Terrorism

An Update on the Recommendations of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism by The Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group’s WMD Working group A bipartisan Congressional commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (WMD Commission) determined in December 2008 that WMD terrorism is a […]

Generations of Terrorism

The terrorist plot uncovered recently by Jordanian authorities raises concerns about the resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the growing numbers of combat-experienced jihadists being generated by Syria’s continuing civil war, and the future terrorist threat to the region. The plot itself envisioned a complex operation beginning with bombings at shopping malls in Amman, […]

Will Mexico’s New President Continue the War on the Cartels?

After being out of office for 12 years, Mexico’s once perpetually dominant Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) will again take over the presidency next month. A question increasingly framed as a matter of national security north of the border is whether the new administration in Mexico City will continue the previous government’s war on organized crime. […]

The Nexus Between Terror Propaganda and Terrorism: Bremer and Jenkins

“Terrorism is theater.” – Brian Michael Jenkins For many years prior to 9/11, two Americans were in unique positions to originate and frame the national conversation about terrorism.  Those same two people, Brian Michael Jenkins and L. Paul Bremer, played extraordinary roles related to aviation security and World Trade Center (WTC) security in the few […]