Thursday, May 1, 2008

Country Reports On Terrorism (US State Department)

The US State Department has just released its annual Country Reports On Terrorism. The document is quite extensive and contains not only a Strategic Assessment and individual country reports but also a full description of "strategies, activities, tools for disrupting or eliminating safe havens" and a list of designated terrorist organizations (with brief descriptions of each). The full, 50 minute briefing announcing the report is at the end of this post but I have extracted some of the highlights from the Strategic Assessment (Hyperlinks, italics and bold are mine):

  • "Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007. It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although Usama bin Ladin remained the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as AQ’s strategic and operational planner."
  • "2007 was marked by the affiliation of regional insurgent groups with AQ, notably the growing threat in North Africa posed by the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat’s (GSPC) September 2006 merger with AQ, which resulted in GSPC renaming itself al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM is still primarily focused on the Algerian government, but its target set is broader than it was prior to the merger."
  • "At the same time, the alliance of convenience and mutual exploitation between al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) and many Sunni populations there has deteriorated. The Baghdad Security Plan, initiated in February, along with assistance from primarily Sunni tribal and local groups has succeeded in reducing violence to late 2005 levels, has disrupted and diminished AQI infrastructure, and has driven some surviving AQI fighters from Baghdad and Al Anbar into the northern Iraqi provinces of Ninawa, Diyala, and Salah ad Din."
  • "Throughout 2007, AQ increased propaganda efforts seeking to inspire support in Muslim populations, undermine Western confidence, and enhance the perception of a powerful worldwide movement. Terrorists consider information operations a principal part of their effort. Use of the Internet for propaganda, recruiting, fundraising and, increasingly, training, has made the Internet a “virtual safe haven.” (Note: For an interesting perspective on this see The Mercyhurst Virtual Jihad Project) International intervention in Iraq continued to be exploited by AQ as a rallying cry for radicalization and terrorist activity, as were other conflicts such as Afghanistan and Sudan. The international community has yet to muster a coordinated and effectively resourced program to counter extremist propaganda."
  • "Iran remained the most significant state sponsor of terrorism. A critically important element of Iranian national security strategy is its ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad."
    • "Hizballah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, is key to Iran’s terrorism strategy. Iran also continued to threaten its neighbors and destabilize Iraq by providing weapons, training, and funding to select Iraqi Shia militants."
  • "In Colombia, the FARC exemplified another trend: growing links between terrorist and other criminal activity. The FARC, which continued to hold hundreds of hostages, including three American citizens captive for more than four years, raised more than an estimated $60 million per year from narcotics trafficking."
  • "Responding to terrorist groups that have many of the characteristics of a global insurgency – propaganda campaigns, grass roots support, and political and territorial ambitions, though ill-defined, requires a comprehensive response. Successful methods include a focus on protecting and securing the population; and politically and physically marginalizing the insurgents, winning the support and cooperation of at-risk populations by targeted political and development measures, and conducting precise intelligence-led special operations to eliminate critical enemy elements with minimal collateral damage."
  • "There were significant achievements in this area this year against terrorist leadership targets, notably the capture or killing of key terrorist leaders in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, and the Philippines. These efforts buy us time to carry out the most important elements of a comprehensive counterterrorist strategy: disrupting terrorist operations, including their communications, propaganda and subversion efforts; planning and fundraising; and eliminating the conditions that terrorists exploit."
  • "Radicalization of immigrant populations, youth and alienated minorities in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa continued. But it became increasingly clear that radicalization to violent extremism does not occur by accident, or because such populations are innately prone to extremism. Rather, we saw increasing evidence of terrorists and extremists manipulating the grievances of alienated youth or immigrant populations, and then cynically exploiting those grievances to subvert legitimate authority and create unrest. We also note a “self-radicalization” process of youths reaching out to extremists in order to become involved in the broader AQ fight."
  • "Counter-radicalization (Note: Is this a new term? I do not recall having seen it before...) is a key policy priority for the United States, particularly in Europe, given the potential of Europe-based violent extremism to threaten the United States and its key interests directly. The leaders of AQ and its affiliates are extremely interested in recruiting terrorists from and deploying terrorists to Europe, people familiar with Western cultures who can travel freely. Countering such efforts demands that we treat immigrant and youth populations not as a source of threat to be defended against, but as a target of enemy subversion to be protected and supported."
  • "The key success factor in confronting violent extremism is the commitment by governments to work with each other, with the international community, with private sector organizations, and with their citizens and immigrant populations. Local communities are also a vital part of countering radicalization strategies."

Related Posts:
Country Reports On Human Rights Practices (State Department)

Terrorism Threat Map (AON)

Annual Threat Assessment Of The Director Of National Intelligence (Senate Testimony)
Rank Ordering The 26 Risks From The 2008 Global Risk Report (WEF)
One Stop Shopping; Current US National Strategies