Small Wars Journal

16 Years After 9/11: The State of the Terrorist Threat

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 11:32am

16 Years After 9/11: The State of the Terrorist Threat by Peter Bergen, CNN News

Sixteen years after the 9/11 attacks, there is a fair amount of good news about the state of the battle against jihadist terrorists: The United States has not suffered a successful attack by a foreign terrorist organization since al Qaeda's horrific attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Al Qaeda's core group, based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, hasn't launched a successful attack in the West since the suicide bombings on London's transportation system more than a decade ago in 2005, which killed 52 commuters.

The terrorist group that sprang up in the wake of the setbacks suffered by al Qaeda, ISIS is itself now largely defeated, having lost the city of Mosul, its headquarters in Iraq, and much of the city of Raqqa, its headquarters in Syria.

The US-led coalition has also killed an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 ISIS fighters, according to US Special Operations Command's Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in July.

A month later Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said ISIS had lost control of more than three-quarters of the territory that it had once held in Iraq and more than half of what it had once controlled in Syria.

The threat posed by American "foreign fighters" returning to the United States who were trained by ISIS or other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria is quite low compared to European countries. According to public records, only seven American militants have returned from the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields and none has carried out an act of terrorism.

That's the good news, but there are other troubling trends. Since 2014 there have been six lethal jihadist terrorist attacks in the United States, killing 74 people, according to New America's research…

Read on.


Bill C.

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:32am

Our author here presents information that seems to agree with my contention below.

This being that, as relates to "The State of the Terrorist Threat," we must be concerned with a global jihad movement which, properly understood, includes various peoples -- many of who are (a) within Western countries and who are, shall we say, (b) "white" -- and all of whom are determined to resistance, with violence if necessary, the political, the economic, the social -- and especially the value -- "change" demands of "modernization." In this regard, consider the following from our article above:


Terrorism in the United States doesn't emanate only from jihadists, who have killed 95 people in the States since 9/11.

Individuals motivated by far-right ideology have killed 68 people in the United States during the same period, while individuals motivated by black nationalist ideology have killed eight people, according to New America research.


Suggested Question: So: What do our very own "far-right" terrorists seem to have in common with certain of the other terrorists that we must be concerned with today?

Potential Answer:

a. An abhorrence for the political, the economic, the social -- and especially the value -- "change" demands of "modernization." And

b. A determination (1) to prevent further (non-traditional?) political, economic, social and value "changes" from taking place and (2) to implement those (traditional?) political, economic, social and value "norms" that (a) are still in place or that (b) came before; this,

c. Via the use of violence if necessary?

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

As to this such "State of the Terrorist Threat" problem (which seems to be, both here in the West and elsewhere, related to "violent resistance to modernization"), do we -- both here at home and abroad --

a. Succumb to these such terrorists' wishes, and, thus, allow that our own countries -- and those of others -- might (1) abandon "modernization" and, in its stead, (2) work to embrace various forms of the status quo ante? Or do we, instead, both here at home and abroad:

b. Work to defeat these such terrorists; this, by "convincing" them (one way or another) that "modernization" will be both "our" -- and indeed "their" -- way forward?

(This such "convincing" -- one would think -- becoming somewhat more difficult if we [a] enthusiastically embrace an anti-modernization/a status quo ante platform here at home but [b] emphatically demand [and militarily enforce?] a "modernization"/"progress" requirement abroad. Yes?)

Thus: "16 Years After 9/11," do my explanations -- above and below and in some way or another -- help us to better understand "The State of the Terrorist Threat" today?

As to my argument below, that -- via the Brexit and the election of President Trump -- the U.S./the West now seems to have formally joined the Global Jihad movement (properly understood, as a global resistance movement; this, against the political, the economic, the social -- and especially the value -- "change" demands of "modernization"), consider the following:

First: An identification of the possible "Civilizational"/"Clash of Civilizations" aspect of this such phenomenon:


Although many far-right groups remain concerned about perceived country-specific threats, political scientist Leonard Weinberg in the book, Extreme Right Wing Political Violence and Terrorism, argues that since the end of the Cold War these groups have increasingly moved towards concern over threats to a ‘Western civilization’, encompassing North American and European identities. Changes in ideology are reflected in the transnational tactics of far-right extremists as political scientist Manuela Caiani suggests: “despite opposing a supranational system, many extreme right movements consider it necessary to engage in politics on a transnational level”. Historian Rasmus Fleischer, in his book In the Tracks of Breivik, conceptualizes the far-right as moving from ‘multi-fascism’ towards ‘mono-fascism’. Multi-fascism is focused on maintaining ethnic identities in line with nations, while the mono-fascism that emerged after the September 11 attacks is broadly “pre-occupied with the defense of ‘Western’ values against perceived threats” and “singly obsessed with the imagined frontline between civilizations”. ...


Next: What appears to be U.S. Army Special Operation Command's interest in this such phenomenon (or, at least, in the apparent "Civilizational"/"Clash of Civilizations" aspect of same?):


Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations examined the nature and course of conflicts among nations. His main thesis was that the wars of princes and ideologies were in the past and that new conflict would be between civilizations. Huntington named eight such civilizations including Western, Islamic, Confucian, and Japanese civilizations. With the book’s publication in 1993, readers could view the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and the ongoing conflict in Israel and easily envision Huntington’s description of the conflict between Western and Islamic civilizations. What was less obvious was the growing rift between the successor state to the Soviet Union—the rump state now called the Russian Federation—and the West. Moscow was emerging as the leader, champion, and oftentimes tyrant of the Slavic Orthodox civilization. ...


(See Page 6 of "Part I. Context and Theory of Russian Unconventional Warfare" of the document linked below.)

Last: Add to this our President's recent emphasis on "Western Civilization," in his July 6 speech in Poland (see the link provided immediately below), and what are we to make of these such -- seemingly related -- matters/this such -- possible new -- "conflict paradigm?" (Fukiyama's "End of History," post-the Old Cold War, having failed to materialize.)…

From our article above:


The continued resilience of al Qaeda in Syria and the fact that the drivers of global jihadism are not going away anytime soon suggests that the long war that began on 9/11 more than a decade and half ago has many years left before it finally sputters out.


As we look at such things as "the drivers of global jihadism," let us consider this (a) less from the seemingly myopic "Islamic"/"Islamist"/"9-11" perspective and (b) more from a -- possibly more accurate -- true "global"/"worldwide"/"universal" phenomenon perspective, to wit: a perspective that this issue now seems to both require and deserve.

Thus, specifically, from the perspective of:

a. A "global"/"worldwide"/"universal" resistance/rejection/rebellion effort; this,

b. Against the political, economic, social -- and especially the value -- change "demands" of, shall we say, "modernization."

(Thus, a phenomenon which finds significant populations within the U.S./the West, now also, rejecting the political, economic, social -- and especially the value -- "change" demands of "modernization;" this, as the recent Brexit, and the recent election of President Trump, clearly seems to indicate?)


If the U.S./the West now also -- much like much of the Rest of the World -- has embraced "jihad" (resistance to the political, economic, social, and especially the value, "change" demands of "modernization" -- "global jihad/"global jihadism," thus, to more properly be seen in this manner?)

Then, given this such seemingly common "resistance to change" cause, and this seemingly common "resistance to change" effort, how can the U.S./the West:

a. Defeat this such resistance effort here at home? And, likewise,

b. Defeat this such resistance effort throughout much of the Rest of the World?

(If indeed, in the "global jihad" context offered by me here, this such "defeat" effort is still considered to be reasonable, proper, valid, necessary, etc.)

(P.S.: "Terrorism" thus, likewise throughout the world today, and in the U.S./the West now also, to be better understood more from this, common it would seem, "global rejection" perspective; this, of the -- intolerable to many -- way of life, way of governance, values, etc., "change" demands of, shall we say, "modernization?")

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Thus, in the context I offer here, to see the "long war" -- both here at home and abroad -- as being a conflict which routinely emerges with the pursuit of "modernization"/"progress," and with the common people's routine (and very understandable in this context?) resistance; this, to the political, economic, social -- and/or especially to the value -- "change" demands of same? Thus, a "long war," thus properly understood, which begins -- not on 9/11 -- but, indeed, long, long ago?