Editor’s Note: What to do with captured foreign volunteers for terrorist organizations is one of the toughest issues facing Western governments today. (See my views on a current U.S. case here.) Human rights organizations are particularly critical of governments that revoke citizenship or otherwise try to prevent their citizens from returning. Robin Simcox of the Heritage Foundation believes this opposition is simplistic.
Latest in Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)
Fitna, a Failed Coup and a Squandered Opportunity to Undermine the Islamic State’s ‘Intangible Power’
Editor’s Note: The Islamic State seeks to project an image of strength, and that image has attracted many followers. In the past few years, the above-ground caliphate has collapsed and infighting is growing, but the group still stresses its prowess and leadership in its propaganda. Michael Smith II, a terrorism analyst who specializes in jihadist influence operations, calls for the United States to exploit the Islamic State’s internal dissent in its own counter-propaganda, playing up these divisions to further weaken the group.
Editor’s Note: Whether the Islamic State is out as well as down is hotly debated in the terrorism world. President Trump believes the group is defeated, but most analysts argue that it remains a major threat. How to measure defeat, though, is not given much consideration. Jacob Olidort of American University argues that the president basically has it right: If you look at a broad range of measures, the Islamic State is defeated and U.S. policy should reflect this win.
Editor’s Note: In the years since 9/11, the United States has waged war around the globe. It has often done so, however, “by, with, and through” local partners. Despite the importance of this approach and its overall value to the United States, its risks and limits do not receive enough attention. Morgan Kaplan of the Buffett Institute at Northwestern asks several probing questions about U.S. efforts to work with partners and concludes that this approach should not be uncritically embraced.
On Jan. 9, the People’s Defense Units (YPG) announced the capture of eight individuals, ostensibly foreign fighters for the Islamic State, in a series of operations conducted by the group near the town of Deir-ez-Zor in eastern Syria. Reportedly among the captured are fighters from seven different countries.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Order from Chaos.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the president tweeted to explain his sudden decision to withdraw the several thousand U.S. troops stationed in Syria within 30 days. Trump’s decision has a few potential positives, but overall the decision is a poor one—made far worse by the lack of a process and preparation.
U.S. Reimposes Sanctions on Iran, New Wave of Islamic State Attacks, Calls for Yemen Ceasefire Fail to Halt Fighting in Hodeidah
U.S. Hits Iran with Second Wave of Sanctions
Editor’s Note: Perhaps the biggest counterterrorism challenge facing the Trump administration is whether or not to keep a robust military presence in Syria now that the Islamic State has been forced underground. Kim Cragin of the National Defense University argues that the killing of jihadist leaders and other operations in Syria are an important part of why the United States and Europe have experienced fewer attacks than expected and that leaving the region risks more successful terrorist attacks.
Editor’s Note: Although Internet comments have made great strides in trying to combat extremist content online, they have a long way to go. In particular, much of what jihadists use for propaganda is non-violent or otherwise doesn't neatly fit material that can easily be identified as terrorist-related and removed. Audrey Alexander and Helen Powell of George Washington University's Program on Extremism call for a more holistic approach that goes beyond image takedowns.