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Russia and Turkey: Consequences in Counterterrorism

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Terrorism

Intelligence communities are often examined through their organizational structure. However, another approach is to examine cooperation agreements, conflicts, and the successes and failures of these relationships. This research examines cooperation agreements among different nations to combat the global security threat of terrorism. Specifically, this paper seeks to explore the successes and failures of Russia and Turkey in their attempts to combat terrorism. Terrorism fails to discriminate against any one nation, person, idea, or thought. In the words of Vladimir Putin, “terrorism has no nationality or religion.” Below is a matrix outlining concepts explored in this analysis.

Turkey and Russia have been fighting the rise of the Islamic State but through different approaches. Zenon as explains the Islamic state is a fusion of a state, an insurgency, and a terrorist organization, a violent non-state actor that could be best described as a quasi-state” (96). The threats imposed by the Islamic State include both conventional and asymmetrical threats. Thus, by examining history we can understand how to combat the different angles and methods used by the Islamic State.

Historically, Russia has primarily faced terrorism issues from the North Caucasus region. “The struggle was begun by Chechen rebels and was apparently supported economically, morally, and militarily by radical Islamic elements in the Middle East” (Magan, 2010).Additionally, Russia continued to face challenges defending its security interests domestically and regionally. As Crosston notes, Russia contends with several aspects of domestic security to include home-grown radical Islamist movements, political and economic corruption while facing an international struggle against terrorism” (123).

In direct comparison, Turkey also experienced security concerns as it related to extremist organizations and terrorism. Throughout history, Turkey has tackled some of the most challenging movements for Islamic independence. “Turkey had established blood borders drawn up by a popular struggle for self-determination” (Akturk, 5). Turkey confronted a different kind of challenge than most western and non-western regions, which included ethic and religious separatist movements. For decades, Turkey viewed the Kurdish militancy as a threat to their security and sovereignty (Starr, 1). Turkey attempted to solve the dilemma with the Kurds through largely political means but also employed some heavy-handed military operations as well. Turkey had another problem besides the conflict with the Kurdish people: it wanted accession into the European Union.

Turkey pursued accession into the European Union to advance their strategic agenda and strengthen commercial and economic ties. However, the European Union was not confident Turkey could comply with the Copenhagen criteria “without substantial change in the role of the military” (Larrabee and Lesser, 12). Turkey understood to gain accession into the European Union it would need to undergo significant reform and change the paradigm of their geopolitical environment. Turkey began to accept change and underwent reform to continually enhance its relationship with the European Union. First, in 2001, Ankara laid out an Accession Partnership Document and parliament passed a series of reforms that eased restrictions on human rights. (Larrabee and Lesser, 53). Turkey started to make steps toward developing a successful Western-like democratic establishment, even if there was skepticism inside the European Union. Additionally, in 2002, Turkey passed a mini-reform package that “relaxed constraints on freedom of expression that had been used to jail journalists and intellectuals who published views considered to undermine the State” (Larrabee and Lesser, 53). The reforms within Turkey were well-received within the international community. However, Turkey still had a long way to go on meeting the full criteria established by the European Union.

Russia, however, has taken a different approach to terrorism by implementing ambivalent policies. As a communist country, Russia’s main authoritarian security concern was to protect its internal security (Gentry, 468). Although Russia seeks to maintain practical strategic partnerships, its Military Doctrine today is conflicting. For example, “a document from 1993 stated Russia did not recognize any country as its foe, whereas the text from 2000 suggests many actions will pose challenges and actual threats to Moscow’s security” (Bugajski, 62). Russia has a significant Muslim population and must maintain a peaceful approach toward Muslims. Therefore, Russia “chooses to present those involved as rebels against the state as criminals handled by internal security procedures” (Magen, 2010). Although Russia has experienced several contradictions within its policies, it has also found ways to cooperate with many rivals.

Similar to Turkey, Russia sought out regional cooperation for a common good. In 1992 and 2002, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to exchange information as it related to Islamic religious groups and suspected criminals/terrorists (Lefebvre and McDermott, 269). In certain cases, rivals can come to an agreement based on common interests and threats. After the attacks on the U.S. in 2001, the NATO-Russia Founding Act called upon the international community to unite against “such an inhuman act” (NATO, 2001). Beasly, Kaarbo, Hermann and Hermann explain leaders tend to set aside disagreements based on foreign threats to protect the survival of the regime (220). Strategically, Putin may have been simply reassuring Bush or Putin may have truly empathized. Either way, it reduced the alienation endured by Russia and the United States, often self-imposed.

The respect for identity has been a greater challenge for Turkey. Turkey continued to fight for accession into the European Union but a decade later the enhanced relationships and possibility of democratic reform took a fatal blow. BBC News reported, in 2016, the Turkish military established a coup d’état in which Erdogan encouraged the public to take to the streets in an all-out war against the Turkish military (Turkey’s coup attempt, 2016). The European Union was significantly unsettled by President’s Erdogan’s actions, which crumbled the possibility of Turkey’s accession into the European Union. Turkey was now at a complete disadvantage with the European Union and trying to combat terrorism in and outside the region.

The European Union-Turkey tensions remain tense due to Turkey’s domestic politics. Pierini (former EU ambassador) explains President Erdoğan’s political affiliations are now connected to anti-European parties which uphold the “one-man-rule system and will not steer the country toward European democratic standards” (2018). Although it seemed throughout the early 2000s Turkey was gaining accession support from the European Union, the crucial decisions of President Erdogan marked a monumental turning point in EU-Turkey relations that further exacerbated the growing threat of terrorism within Turkey. Turkey continues to struggle with sectarian and religious hostilities throughout the region. On May 11th 2013, “Turkey suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in modern history when 52 people were killed in twin car bombings close to the Syrian border” (Starr, 1). This marked the beginning of a long road of terrorist growth and activity within Turkey. By 2017, the “Reina nightclub massacre in Istanbul marked the involvement of the Islamic State” terrorist group publicly taking ownership of an attack within the Turkish state (Soliev, 24).

Comparable to Turkey, immediate security threats inside Russia are still a growing concern. Russia continues to develop cooperation with international and non-governmental partners to enhance and protect rights in and outside the region. Russian foreign policies focus on maintaining strong economic and foreign policy ties to the European Union (Foreign Policy, #63/64). However, Russia is also going to have to look toward non-friendly partners to stabilize situations that have a direct impact on Russian domestic and regional security. Russia realized it needed to focus on terrorism not just from a domestic standpoint, but from regional and international ones. For example, by 2009, Russia was forced to return to the security threat of an unstable Afghanistan. Russia utilized regional actors, throughout the 2000s, such as Pakistan, Central Asia, and India, to understand the position of Afghanistan (Safranchuck, 2019). This not only enhanced relationships with Pakistan (a foe to Russia) but gave Russia regional expertise to help develop new policies on regional and transnational terrorism.

Turkey also continues to advance towards developing policies that deter those organizations threatening to ‘cleanse’ Turkey’s southern regions. Similar to Russia, the Republic of Turkey explains its main security concerns include protecting territorial integrity and preserving national identity (2011). The increased tensions across Syria cause continued concern for Turkey. In an interview with BBC, Mihrae Ural (a Commander of Syrian resistance), claimed individuals in regions of southern Turkey were allied with Syria to fight on behalf of the Syrian government (Starr, 3). The integrity and security of Turkey continues to be compromised by its own artificial borders and loss of ties to Russia. As the Syrian conflict continued, Turkey understood the importance of establishing joint partnerships to prevent the disruption of the territorial sovereignty of Turkey.

Russia is continuing to seek political advancements and influence through alternative policies and relationships around the globe. One of the major successes was Russia’s ability to establish a relationship with the United States in regards to combating terrorism. It not only established relationships with the United States but also the European region. Russia is able to focus on its internal threats but also build influence in Central and Eastern European regions by establishing relatively amicable relationships with America. This has given Russia the perception that it is a major source of European power. Russia has not only assessed the need to find common ground with the United States, but understands the influence this could provide Russia in the European region.

However, this success would quickly turned into a failure to maintain cooperation with the European region. Russia began to see the European region as a threat to the ‘Russian regime’ and turned from cooperative to conflicting. After Russia had a conflict with Georgia, the European Union suspended its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia (Foxall, 2018). Russia saw the continued expansion of NATO and increased western influence as a means to infringe upon Russian borders, thereby threatening Russian sovereignty.

Recently, in 2016, the Russian Federation released their Foreign Policy Concept. Russia focused on the “spread of extremist ideology and the activity of terrorist groups, primarily, in the Middle East and North Africa” (Foreign Policy, 2016). Russia is searching for policies that respect its territorial sovereignty while countering attempts that interfere with its domestic state of affairs. Russia has provided this in its foreign policy by understanding the need to “prevent military interventions or other outside interference” while still allowing Russia to exercise its sovereign rights (Foreign Policy, 2016). These policies not only secure the national security of Russia, but seek to strengthen cooperation with neighboring states.

Turkey and Russia must continually examine regional and international networks available to develop a comprehensive approach to mitigating terrorism domestically and regionally. Ehrhart explains the successes of Russia in the Ukraine and the U.S. in Afghanistan was the utilization of civil and military means and methods (265). Employing these different combinations of means and methods also required a vast amount of cooperation and communication. However, prior to establishing any relationship, the nation must consider any risks involved and how that partner conceptualizes different security threats (Ehrhart, 271). Any country facing the threat of terrorism, Western or non-Western, must establish cooperating partners while communicating effectively with domestic, regional, and global actors.

In conclusion, Russia and Turkey were able to establish policies intended to safeguard their internal systems. As strategic opportunities arose, both nations took advantage of developing cooperation with the European Union and the United States, respectively. However, the authoritarian tendencies of both nations ultimately led to failure in maintaining these relationships. Although Russia failed to maintain a strong relationship with NATO and the US, it was able to successfully and strategically place itself around the Afghan region to gain influence and expertise there. Whereas Turkey was not able to gain accession into the European Union, it also failed to resolve ethnic and culture dilemmas internally and regionally. Therefore, Russia has established better strategic and tactical means to deter the internal and regional influence of terrorism across its general sphere of geographical impact.

Larissa Beavers was born and raised in Ashley, PA and joined the United States Air Force in 2004. She has been an enlisted member of the United States Air Force for the last 14 years as an intelligence analyst. Larissa is currently a student of American Public University System under the Doctorate of Strategic Intelligence Program. She completed her Bachelors in Criminal Intelligence and Masters of Intelligence Studies at American Public University.

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U.S.: From mass airstrikes to targeted terrorist attack

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The U.S.-led military operation “Inherent Resolve” has begun in August 2014. Its ostensible purpose was a struggle with the gaining ground ISIS at that moment. As the operation develops, Australia, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries joined the American airstrikes.

United forces, with purposes to show power and strengthen its influence in the region carried out more than three thousand airstrikes in the first year, resulting in thousands of victims among civilians. It is worth to note that member states of the coalition didn’t try to hide the fact that their actions caused the death of thousands of people. In 2018, British authorities justified civilian deaths by the fact that militants used them as human shields and it was impossible task to minimize losses.

According to “Airwars”, the British non-government organization, from 2014 till 2019 up to 13,190 civilians were killed in Iraq and Syria as a result of the international coalition actions.

However, despite all the “efforts” and the Pentagon’s loud statements about the fight against international terrorism, the fact of the continuously growing territory controlled by the militants testifies the opposite. In addition, since 2015, facts of provided by Washington direct support to terrorists have begun to be revealed. U.S. and its allies produced weapons were repeatedly found in the territories liberated from jihadists. So, for example in 2017 during armed clashes with government troops militants used anti-tank TOW-2 and SAMS air defense systems of the U.S. production. Also, American medicines, communication tools and even component kits for UAVs were found in positions abandoned by terrorists.

The negative reaction of the international community began to rise in this context and Washington had no choice but to change the strategy of its activity in Syria. The practice of mass airstrikes was replaced by targeted terrorist attacks against government forces by their backed militants.

For implementing of such kind of actions, U.S. retained its military presence in Homs province where their military base Al-Tanf is deployed. A huge amount of evidence U.S. servicemen training armed groups fighters is widely accessible. Moreover it’s known that 55 km zone around Al-Tanf has been inaccessible to government troops for years and Syrian army attempts to enter the area were suppressed by the U.S. airstrikes.

At the same time, IS militants have been spotted moving in this region without encumbrance and used the base as a safe zone for regrouping. Terrorists slipped in Deir ez-Zor, Palmyra, as well as Daraa and As-Suwayda from this area. In addition, the U.S. has created the Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra group to fight government forces in the eastern section of the border between Syria and Iraq. Initially, the armed group was created to fight against government troops, but after a number of defeats they started to protect the area around the Al-Tanf.

Up to the date Washington continues to insist on Bashar al-Assad government “illegitimacy” and actively supports so-called moderate opposition. Pursuing its selfish economic and political goals, the United States counters to the international law, completely ignoring the tens of thousands victims among civilians and millions of refugees flooded Europe. Although the role of the White House and its allies in supporting terrorist groups is difficult to overestimate, the United States obviously will not consider it enough.

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FATF: A Sword of Damocles or a tool of financial discipline?

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Pakistan has been groaning under the Financial Action Task Force restrictions. There is marked contrast between Pakistan’s and India’s view of Pakistan’s current status, compliant or tardy with regard to most of the conditions. Pakistan oozes optimism that it has complied with most of the conditions.  India however is pessimistic about Pakistan’s ability to get over the bar anytime soon.

Anti-money-laundering legislation

One hurdle to meet the FATF conditionalities was to have a permanent mechanism to nab and prosecute the offenders. Pakistan’s federal cabinet has already approved a new set of rules to amend Anti-Money-Laundering (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021. Thus, Pak government is now all set to set to introduce new rules on forfeiture, management and auction of properties and assets relating to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) cases and transfer of investigations and prosecution of AML cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies to achieve remaining benchmarks of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

These rules and related notifications for certain changes in existing schedule of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) would come into force immediately to be followed by appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.

These legislative steps would help the FATF determine whether Pakistan has complied with three outstanding benchmarks, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the so-called grey list in February this year. The FATF has planned several meetings in the second week of June, ending in the FATF plenary on June 21-25.

The three outstanding action points (out of total 27) include (i) demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; (ii) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and (iii) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf.

Within framework of the amended rules, the Pak government would appoint dozens of administrators with the powers to confiscate, receive, manage, rent out, auction, transfer or dispose of or take all other measures to preserve the value of the properties and perishable or non-perishable assets (including those at go downs, maalkhanas or any other place) to be confiscated under the AML 2010 rules or court orders pursuant to proceedings under AMLA 2010.

The regional directors of the Anti-Narcotics Force would be designated as administrators for the ANF, customs collectors for the Federal Board of Revenue, directors of directorates of intelligence and investigation of the Inland Revenue Service for the IRS, zonal directors for FIA and additional directors of recovery, disposal and assets management cells for National Accountability Bureau.

Valuation of inventories

The AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 specify how the inventories would be measured, described or defined, protected and evaluated for auction and how to complete all processes thereto, including constitution of auction committees and how properties would be quantified or classified like if a property is of residential, commercial or industrial nature and what should be its market value or sale price etc.

For example, the movable case property worth more than Rs100,000 would be kept in the locker or vault in the State Bank of Pakistan, district or tehsil treasury or any nationalised bank. For withdrawal of such movable properties, the agency concerned would designate two officers of grade-17 or above and prior written permission of next supervisory officer of the agency would be required.

Each agency would establish a central asset recovery office to ensure assets recovery and management of the forfeited property and keep a designated central account with the SBP maintained by the ministry of finance where proceeds of property would be remitted by all agencies after attainment of the finality of forfeiture order by a court. All investigating and prosecuting agencies would exchange financial intelligence and information about the properties with other stakeholders for expeditious confiscation and forfeiture under the AMLA 2010.

Transfer of cases to competent authorities

The Anti-Money Laundering (Referral) Rules, 2021 are being introduced to enable transfer of the cases from one set of investigation agencies to another. If police, the ACEs or any other governmental organisations, other than investigating and prosecution agency under the AMLA, finds that an offence under the AMLA 2010 has been committed and such agency lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of it, the head of such would refer the matter to the head of the agency concerned having jurisdiction to investigate.

Police, the ACEs or other governmental organisations would continue an inquiry or an investigation of the offence and would take necessary measures to preserve and retrieve the relevant information and evidence and case properties till formal acceptance by the investigating and prosecuting agency concerned as set out in the relevant clause of the AMLA and formal handing over and taking over of complete record.

After acceptance of the case by the competent investigating and prosecuting agency, police or ACEs etc would hand over complete record, including case files, record of proceedings and seizure memos along with relevant evidence, property and other material seized and the accused in custody, if any. Such investigating and prosecuting agencies would resume all the proceedings under the said act including to examine, re-examine persons concerned and other oral and documentary evidence and would expeditiously take steps as necessary for just finalisation of the proceedings.

Adequate number of special public prosecutors would be appointed for the Anti-Narcotics Force and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) besides a separate panel of lawyers for customs and the Internal Revenue Service of the Federal board of Revenue. Also, law officers not below the rank of assistant director legal would be appointed for the Federal Investigating Agency and special public prosecutors for the National Accountability Bureau.

Pakistan also has to issue “National Policy Statement on Follow the Money (NPSFM)”. Through this statement and rules listed above, Pakistan’s compliance with FATF recommendations in Post Observation Period Report (POPR) would further improve with corresponding enhancement in the ratings or effectiveness of the FATF’s relevant Immediate Outcomes. Pakistan’s POPR would be reviewed by the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Joint Group (A-PJG), and based on the report of this group, the FATF would decide further course of action on Pakistan’s progress on the POPR in its plenary scheduled in June 21-25, 2021.

The NPSFM commits Pakistan to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing as a matter of priority during investigations, prosecutions, and subsequent confiscation in all money laundering, terrorism financing and high risk predicate crimes by adopting universal approach to combating money-laundering and terror-financing through generating sound and effective financial intelligence reports for the consumption of law enforcement agencies and maintaining risk-sensitive anti-money-laundering  regime to enhance cooperation and coordination amongst the such  stakeholders both domestically and internationally.

The government is also committed to protecting the financial system and the broader economy in Pakistan from criminality through a robust financial system to ensure that dirty money does not find its ways into the financial system. The government would ensure a robust beneficiary identification system, deterring financial crime as it deprives criminals of the proceeds of their crimes and removes financial support for terrorism and further ensures that targeted financial sanctions are implemented in letter and spirit.

Further, it would ensure a transparent, robust and efficient approach to investigating money laundering and terrorist financing and to the seizure, confiscation and management of criminal assets by supporting relevant agencies in cooperatively achieving this goal.

Compliance

 The Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering has improved Pakistan’s rating on 21 of the 40 technical recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against money laundering and terror financing, but retained it on ‘Enhanced Follow-up’ for sufficient outstanding requirements.

The second Follow-Up Report (FUR) on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan released by the APG — a regional affiliate of the Paris-based FATF — also downgraded the country on one criterion. The report said Pakistan was re-rated to ‘compliant’ status on five counts and on 15 others to ‘largely compliant’ and on yet another count to ‘partially compliant’.

Overall, Pakistan is now fully ‘compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘largely compliant’ with 24 others. The country is ‘partially compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘non-compliant’ with two out of total 40 recommendations. All in all, Pakistan is now compliant or largely compliant with 31 out of 40 FATF recommendations.

The Asia Pacific Group announced,

“Overall, Pakistan has made notable progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) and has been re-rated on 22 recommendations,”.

It said recommendations 14, 19, 20, 21 and 27 had been re-rated to comply. These pertain to money or value transfer services, higher risk countries, reporting of suspicious transactions, tipping-off and confidentiality and powers of supervisors.

The APG said Pakistan was re-rated to largely compliant with 15 recommendations — 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 35 and 40. These include assessing risk and adopting a risk-based approach, targeted financial sanctions relating to terror and terror financing, targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation, non-profit organisation, politically exposed persons and reliance on third parties.

Also, re-rating was done on designated non-financial business & professions (DNFBP) in terms of due diligence and other measures, transparency in beneficial ownership of legal persons and related legal arrangements, responsibilities of law enforcement and investigation authorities, cash couriers, sanctions and other forms of international cooperation.

Another re-rating to partially compliant status was done on recommendation 28 that pertained to regulation and supervision of DNFBPs. The two recommendations on which Pakistan was downgraded to ‘non-complaint’ were 37 and 38 due to insufficient progress and pertained to mutual legal assistance (MLA) with other countries and freezing and confiscation of assets and accounts.

Negative impact of rigorous compliance

The managers of financial institutions in Pakistan are implementing the FATF conditions  without understanding their purpose. They are harassing honest investors. For instance, the manager of the national Saving Centre Poonch house Rawalpindi refuses to issue an investment certificate  unless the applicant submits a host of documents. These documents include a current bank statement, source-of-income certificate besides biodata along with a passport-size photograph. They call for the documents even if the applicant submits a cheque on his 40-year-old bank account.

Deviation from objectives

The financial Action Task Force has ostensibly noble objectives. It provides a `legal’, regulatory, framework for muzzling the hydra-headed monster of money-laundering. It aims at identifying loopholes in the prevailing financial system and plugging them. But, it has deviated from its declared objectives. It has became a tool to coerce countries, accused of financing terrorism or facilitating money-laundering. The FATF is more interested in disciplining a state like Pakistan, not toeing US policies, than in checking money-laundering. The tacit message is that if Pakistan does not toe USA’s  Afghan policy, and lease out air bases for drone attacks, then it will remain on FATF grey list.  

The consequences of being in the grey list may entail economic sanctions and difficulties in obtaining loans from international donors like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The trade-and-aid difficulties may retard economic progress of a country.

Favoritism towards India: India has a much larger Gross Domestic Product (US$2875 billion , 2019),  than Pakistan’s paltry US$ 264 billion (2020).Similarly India has a much larger and wealthier Diaspora than Pakistan particularly in the Middle East and the USA.

The hawala (hand to hand transactions) and other money transfer practices among Indians and Pakistanis are similar. Yet the FATF keeps Pakistan always in focus and looks the other way when it comes to India.

Pakistan is a bête noire and India a protégé at the FATF only because of stark geo-political interests. Otherwise the money laundering situation in India is no less gruesome in India than in Pakistan. India has even been a conduit of ammunition to the Islamic State study conducted by Conflict Armament Research had confirmed that seven Indian companies were involved in the supply chain of over 700 components, including fuses or detonating cords used by the so-called Islamic State to construct improvised explosive devices.

Concluding remark

Political considerations, not primary objectives, override voting behavior at the FATF.

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The Autopsy of Jihadism in the United States

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The American counter-terrorism establishment is shocked to know that its current terrorist threat, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not foreign but “a large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents”.

A terror threat assessment by NewAmerica, a think tank comprehensive, up-to-date source of online information about terrorist activity in the United States and by Americans overseas since 9/11, 20 years after 9/11 reported: “…while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident except one who was in the United States as part of the U.S.-Saudi military training partnership”.

The ultimate irony is NewAmerica quoting a terrorist to underline the seriousness of the threat: “Yet today, as Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric who became a leader in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, put it in a 2010 post, ‘Jihad is becoming as American as apple pie’.”

Since 9/11 and today, the United States faced just “one case of a jihadist foreign terrorist organization directing a deadly attack inside the United States since 9/11, or of a deadly jihadist attacker receiving training or support from groups abroad”. The report recalls: “That case is the attack at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6, 2019, when Mohammed Al-Shamrani shot and killed three people. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed the attack and according to the FBI, evidence from Al-Shamrani’s phone  he was in contact with an AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) militant and AQAP prior to his entry to the United States…”

In the last two decades, “jihadists” have killed 107 people inside the United States. Compare this with deaths occurring due to major crimes: 114 people were killed by far-right terrorism (consisting of anti-government, militia, white supremacist, and anti-abortion violence), 12 and nine people, respectively, killed in attacks “inspired by black separatist/nationalist ideology and ideological misogyny”. Attacks by people with Far-Left views have killed one person. It just goes to show that terrorism inside the United States is no longer the handiwork of foreign or “jihadi” ideologies, but is “homegrown”, the report points out.

The report points out a poor understanding of the terror threat and its roots by the Trump administration. A week into his presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry of citizens of seven Muslim countries into the United States. The countries were: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Th order cited “national security” as the reason, but gave no real justification.

Trump’s aides tried to find some justification for the order claiming that in the administration’s assessment the United States was and will be the prime target of terrorist organisations from these countries. The same report clarifies how wrong this assessment was: “None of the deadly attackers since 9/11 emigrated or came from a family that emigrated from one of these countries nor were any of the 9/11 attackers from the listed countries. Nine of the lethal attackers were born American citizens. One of the attackers was in the United States on a non-immigrant visa as part of the U.S.-Saudi military training partnership.”

President Trump had to swallow his pride and gradually revoke his order. In early March of 2017, he revised the order excluding Iraq from the ban list. That September, he dropped Sudan too, but added North Korea, Venezuela and Chad.

In the last two decades since 9/11, there have been 16 “lethal jihadist terrorists in the United States”. Of them, “three are African-Americans, three are from families that hailed originally from Pakistan, one was born in Virginia to Palestinian immigrant parents, one was born in Kuwait to Palestinian-Jordanian parents, one was born in New York to a family from Afghanistan, two are white converts – one born in Texas, another in Florida, two came from Russia as youth, one emigrated from Egypt and conducted his attack a decade after coming to the United States, one emigrated from Uzbekistan and one was a Saudi Air Force officer in the United States for military training”. Nobody from the banned countries, nobody foreign citizens; all were American citizens.

What is more embarrassing for the Trump administration is the report saying: “When the data is extended to include individuals who conducted attacks inside the United States that were foiled or otherwise failed to kill anyone, there are only four cases that the travel ban could have applied to. However, in at least two of those cases, the individual entered the United States as a child. In a third case the individual had a history of mental illness and assault not related to jihadist terrorism. In a fifth, non-lethal attack Adam al-Sahli, who conducted a shooting at a military base in Corpus Christi on May 21, 2020, was born in Syria but was a citizen because his father was an American citizen and thus would not have been subject to the travel ban.”

The NewAmerica assessment, in contrast to the executive order, finds concrete evidence to suggest that the terror threat is “homegrown”. It gives the example of Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, “a naturalised citizen from Iran”, who on March 3, 2006 drove a car into a group of students at the University of North Carolina, injuring nine people. “Taheri-Azar, though born in Iran, came to the United States at the age of two” and “his radicalization was homegrown inside the United States”. On September 17, 2016 Dahir Adan, a naturalized citizen from Somalia, injured 10 people while wielding a knife at a mall in Minnesota. He too had come to the United States as a young child.

There are more such instances: “On November 28, 2016 Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an 18-year-old legal permanent resident who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia in 2014 — having left Somalia for Pakistan in 2007 — injured eleven people when he rammed a car into his fellow students on the campus of Ohio State University…However, it is not clear that the attack provides support for Trump’s travel ban.

In Artan’s case, he left Somalia as a pre-teen, and “if he was radicalized abroad, it most likely occurred while in Pakistan”, which is not included on the travel ban. The report says the chances of him being radicalised inside the United States are more. This is based on the fact that “in a Facebook posting prior to his attack, he cited Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric born in the United States, whose work — which draws largely upon American culture and history — has helped radicalize a wide range of extremists in the United States including those born in the United States”.

There are several other pointers to the “homegrown” theory. For one, a “large proportion of jihadists in the United States since 9/11 have been converts”. There are “jihadists” who are non-Muslims. These facts “challenge visions of counterterrorism policy that rely on immigration restrictions or focus almost entirely on second generation immigrant populations”, the report says, debunking the Trump executive order.

The NewAmerica report debunks the assumption that only “hot headed” people are attracted to jihadist extremism. It finds that “participation in jihadist terrorism has appealed to individuals ranging from young teenagers to those in their advanced years (and) many of those involved have been married and even had kids – far from the stereotype of the lone, angry youngster”.

Women have broken the glass ceiling of jihadist terrorism as “more women have been accused of jihadist terrorism crimes in recent years” inside the United States.

The expansion of the social media world has played a singular role in radicalising American youth. “Many extremists today either maintain public social media profiles displaying jihadist rhetoric or imagery or have communicated online using encrypted messaging apps. The percentage of cases involving such online activity has increased over time.” Al Qaeda terrorists became key figures in this proliferation. They “fine-tuned the message and the distribution apparatus” and “put out extremist propaganda via websites and YouTube videos”.

America’s jihadists were never an immigration problem, the biggest jihadist terror threat U.S faces today is “homegrown”.

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As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan draws...

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Defense9 hours ago

Nuclear Black Market and India’s Expanding Weapons Program

The threat around nuclear and radiological material has become acute in India with its expanding nuclear weapons program. There exist...

Energy News15 hours ago

Korea shares experience of electric vehicles and renewable energy with Thailand

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is supporting South-East Asian countries in combatting climate change through policy consultation and...

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