While terror attacks worldwide were down 23 percent in 2017 due to the near-defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, stopping terror attacks in the future has ironically become more complicated.
A new State Department report outlines why:
After receiving a pounding in Syria and Iraq, members of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other violent Islamist groups that survived spread out, decentralized and are adopting new technologies to perpetrate attacks. One of the most concerning are simple chemical weapons delivered on small drone systems.
- Foreign fighters have returned home or relocated, taking with them sophisticated knowledge from the battlefield. The internet keeps them connected and able to plan and coordinate attacks from various locations, making them less susceptible to conventional military action.
- ISIS conducted attacks in England, Spain, Egypt, the United States and Philippines (among other locations) last year alone. It also now poses a threat to China and Chinese interests around the world.
Al-Qaeda, which was waiting in the wings while ISIS enjoyed its day, remains a deadly global threat, possibly more than ever. Al-Qaeda always had its eye on the long war. It is “a patient and determined adversary,” according to State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism Nathan Sales.
- In October 2017, al-Qaeda carried out a truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, that killed more than 300 people.
Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, “is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, Afghanistan and Lebanon,” said Sales. In addition, Iran spread its tentacles to Africa, North and South America.
While the State Department report noted there is now an increase in global cooperation in fighting terror – including tracking and blocking finances to extremists — ISIS, al-Qaeda and Iran all have the capability and intent to strike the U.S. and its allies.