Analysis & Opinions - Military Times

The US is Safer from Jihadi Terrorism 20 Years after 9/11

| Jan. 13, 2022

The international jihadi terrorist threat to the United States is down since the al-Qaida attacks of 20 years ago. Not through war or other uses of organized violence, but through cooperation, use of legal and financial tools, and strengthening homeland defense and resilience.

When it comes to international or foreign groups that want to target the United States, their capabilities — as well as their will — matter in assessing the threat. Fortunately for the United States, their capabilities are quite limited. Al-Qaida's ability to mount another attack on U.S. soil has been seriously diminished over the past 20 years. Intelligence sharing, increases in homeland security, international tracing and blocking of financial flows, and cracking down on communications have all contributed to breaking down al-Qaida's communications and planning abilities, reducing its funding, and diminishing its organizational and command authority. It has also lost a series of seconds-in-command, not to mention Osama bin Laden. These weaknesses lessen the threat that it poses to the United States. Also contributing to the United States' relative position of strength is the astounding luck that facilitated the 9/11 attacks. The fact that it took a number of lucky breaks for the attacks to succeed suggests that another spectacular is less rather than more likely.

As the Taliban work to extend their rule over all of Afghanistan, their relationship with jihadi groups remains primarily competitive rather than collaborative. The Taliban themselves are reactionary nationalists eager to impose their version of conservative Pashtun social mores on Afghanistan. Some factions retain ties to al-Qaida while others remember the disaster that al-Qaida's 9/11 attacks brought on them and on Afghanistan. The Taliban are also likely to continue trying to destroy or drive out the Islamic State of Khorasan, an al-Qaida inspired group with aspirations to form a new caliphate. IS-K, meanwhile, has been focused on targets within Afghanistan rather than trying to strike U.S. interests. The group is small, perhaps no more than 2,000 scattered members in eastern Afghanistan with relatively little military capability, command and control, and unity of effort. Fending off the Taliban is likely to keep IS-K busy for the foreseeable future....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hazelton, Jacqueline L.“The US is Safer from Jihadi Terrorism 20 Years after 9/11.” Military Times, January 13, 2022.

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